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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why Do You Believe or Not Believe?

Many "searching" people, or so it seems to me, are looking for a religion that does not stand in judgment of others and that does not tell them what to believe. What they are seeking is a religion that has no religious demands, a religion without authority and without condemnation of any type. But there is no such religion!

The primary definition of "religion" is a belief in a superhuman controlling power, i.e. a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship. Without this description, the word "religion" has no meaning. If individuals want to be free of the pressures to conform why don't they simply take hold of that precious freedom to think for themselves while it still exists? Religion, traditionally, is the institution that is said to give safety, peace of mind, and community which is what most postmodern people are seeking. If this is so, then I wonder why there is such misery, even among believers, and evil throughout this world.

The Unitarian-Universalist (UU) fellowships embrace people of all faiths and non-faiths. Their membership includes disgruntled or disheartened Catholics and Protestants, Buddhists and Hindus, agnostics and atheists, pagans and Wiccans, humanists and Taoists, perhaps a few Muslims, etc. They come together without a unifying creed or theological interpretation to which members must subscribe. Attendees, ostensibly, are encouraged to freely and responsibly search for truth and meaning for themselves in their own way.

These fellowships, obviously, are not communities of wholly like-minded individuals. I once attended over a period of a few years a UU fellowship (and still do on occasion if the advertised sermon topic appeals to me). Even though I never signed their membership book, for the most part gathering with the UUs for Sunday services was a pleasant, educational experience. It served as a peaceful transition from orthodoxy as I struggled to come to terms with my growing unbelief. By then I had severed my membership in both the Worldwide Church of God and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Eventually and ironically, the UU meetings became too ecumenical for me as I became more familiar with the many different religious viewpoints in that fellowship. I was searching and trying to "pick brains," but not one person ever gave me objective reasons for their particular belief positions. Even though I met a number of nice people, they seemed somewhat threatened if I questioned how and why they came to adopt their positions. My experience with the UUs was little different from the orthodox church I had left after I started asking pointed questions about its doctrines and creeds.

I did not become an unbeliever because I was angry with any deity or human being, for that matter, nor because my life was filled with disappointment or anguish. My humanistic atheism developed gradually through intensive personal research and study over many years. I began my investigation of religion because I had so many questions about the Bible and what I was taught it means, what others of different denominations say it means, and why a presumably loving, all-knowing god allows evil to perpetuate.

In a recent Gallop poll, 60% percent of Americans say that religion can answer all of today's problems, while 26% say religion is old-fashioned and out-of-date. I don't know what the remaining 14% say. Perhaps they include the many people who are looking for a religious or spiritual high without the burden of religious or spiritual baggage. They want to believe in something without objectively investigating their beliefs. They want to be a part of a community that gives them a sense of security but doesn't require religious doctrine or rules.

As a sometimes-despised atheist, I know that the majority of people, especially in the United States, do not respect my stance. Religionists would much rather have nominal believers or even those who say they're agnostics in their midst. After all, they might say, there is hope for them.

I respect sincere, nonmilitant adherents of any religious faith even though I disagree with all of them. I do, however, have a hard time with those who want community and meaning from a "spiritual" group but don't even know the meaning of the word "spiritual." (Please see my recently published second book, The Homemade Atheist, for an explanation of my feelings on the subject of spirituality).

If you want community without religious attachments, then join a country club, the Rotarians, or a bowling team. But be assured that you can't be a member in good standing of an established church without at least an outward appearance of conformity to certain rules or commandments of the god or gods which church members say they worship.

Like a TV commercial for a popular cookie once advertised, "If you're going to eat a cookie, then eat a cookie." And I say, "If you're going to believe in god, then believe in god--but know objectively why you do--uncolored by emotion, fear, or bigotry.

141 comments:

Ralph said...

Betty, you touch on something that recently occurred to me. God has hostorically taken two general forms:
1.A controlling God whom we must obey or suffer punishment
2.A God who sets us free from certain authority limitations.

Generally, we seek to worship a "mixed' God in the same way we tend to serve a "mixed" economy or government. A bit of control and a bit of freedom, as if we can have our cake and eat it too.

Generally, we like the majority to serve God number one, above, with the attendant freedoms resulting as obedient followers, allowing us to have God number two personally.

In fact, the only way you can combine the two forms of God is by a process of law, and as luck would have it, that's how our general definitions of God came about.

While the law(of any religion or government) may be harsh or controlling, certain protections are instituted against the accused.

The evolutoin of ths government in OT times actually was constitutional, with an executive, a judiciary, and a legislative, evolving into king with no divine rights, subject to law(Deut 17:18-19), a judiciary(priests, subject to procedural law) and a legislature(which evolved into the Pharisee branch of rabbis).

From this, there was also a system of community judges selected, whose power was limited to the presumption of innocence based in Deut 17:6 and 19:15, right against perjuryin Deut 19:19, and later evolving into protection of the accused by God in isaiah 54:17 and the right to face accusers with God as vindicator in Isaiah 50:8.

So, while certain people were endowed with authority, the law placed God on the side of the accused, not the accuser.

Jesus, in Matthew 5, expanded this law by stating that all trespasses could be settled by the two people involved(Matthew 5:25, Matthew 18:15-18), and that a form of trial by jury could take place OUTSIDE official state or government powers (1 Cor 6).

Whatever power was given to "God number one", above, equal protections and "due process" was afforded to the accused by "God number two" above.

This is also coded into our US constitution by the term "due process' which actually means common law judgement of peers.

Paul extended this concept by saying directly and emphatically that no natural mind can be subject to God's laws(Romans 8:7), and that we cannot choose any special relaytionship to God by any human choice(Romans 8:29-30, 9:16-22).

So, there are no official, authoritative judges who may decide any mode of vengeance on any accused(see Romans 12:19, corresponding to Jesus' statement in Matthew 5).

Therefore, by Paul's teaching, since Jesus paid the full death penalty, even that cannot be given to any religious power, and is only subject to the power of Satan, who is in charge of governments(Matthew 4, Luke 4), therefore making "higher powers", under Romans 13, the last possible resort after "due process of law".

By law, therefore, one can worship God as protector, and depend on law as a protection from others.

Neotherm said...

It is my experience that you do not find God, but rather he finds you. This "finding" is a highly personal and, forgive me, mystical experience.

"The problem of God" dos not yield to the academic approach. It does not yield to the scientific method. This is where many atheists disconnect. They want to go to the Des Moines Public Library, sit down and read some books, and find God or not. I predict that nobody will ever successfully do that. At least, I don't know of anyone.

On the other hand, it is a mystery why some people are believers and others are not. I cannot tell you why. I know people who come from very similar backgrounds and one is a believer and the other is not.

It is clear to me that if God wants you to engage you he will. If he does not, everthing that relates to God will seem absurd and stupid.

That is why I do not disrespect the philosophical content of atheism. You do not disrespect a color-blind guy because he can't tell the difference between green and blue. That is his view. I do deplore discourteous behavior and low jinx.

I had a buddy who is and atheist and attended the Unitarian Church with his family because he wanted to social benefits a church afforded. His practice and his theory did not align. He could understand a part of the picture but not all of it. That is not his fault.

-- Neo

The Painful Truth said...

Welcome Betty to the Painful Truth Blog! I can see already that this is going to turn out to be another interesting month!


Ralph, what the hell is "hostorically"

Ralph said...

Neo, you still adhere to a view that is even contrary to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 13:11 and to Paul's teaching in Romans 8:7.

It should be no mystery as to why some peope do not believe, if you read the book defining your own beliefs. First, it is not given (John 14:17, John 6:44), and second no natural mind can be subject to God, which, if you believe the writings of your own God, is followed by Romans 8:29-30 and Romans 9:16-22.

There is no ability, by any human decision, to claim such special relations, at least not by the New Testament.

There is absolutely no special relation you can claim to God that would be subject to any kind of "peer review", because if it was, it would eliminate the truth of Romans 8:7 and John 14:17.

Ralph said...

"hostorically" is a combination of "host" and "antihistimine" a process by which the study of history is a predatory process hosted by false statements.

There. And you thought it had no meaning.

Retired Prof said...

Neotherm is right: "You do not disrespect a color-blind guy because he can't tell the difference between green and blue. That is his view. I do deplore discourteous behavior and low jinx."

In fact, I would take the statement a bit further; we should welcome color-blind guys for the perceptions they can provide. If my color-blind hunting buddy and I are following a blood trail, I look for spots of red because I can see them better than he can, and he peers ahead to spot the game itself, because he is not so easily fooled by an animal's camouflage.

In matters of the spirit I am the color-blind one. I admire you for consistently living up to your own standard in your blog comments by showing no discourteous behavior. From her stance as an atheist, Betty affords the same courtesy to believers. Two models of humane discourse.

Thanks to you both (but especially to Betty for taking the blog helm this month.)

Purple Hymnal said...

Now that's what I'm talking about! Welcome, Betty, looking forward to reading more from you. :-)

Ralph said...

Prof, by Neo's own standards, assuming he believes in the bible he must be "colorblind". Everyone is, and even assuming one is not, there would be no possible proofs to offer those who are.

Can't get around logic, but you can try, and if you try, what do you have to offer other than subjectivity?

As to your tracing the blood trail, you are referring to a physical system subject to validation by observation.

What does Neo offer in any physical sense subject to validation? In fact, what do you or I offer?

Can't be done, which corresponds to Paul's statement in Romans 8 and 9.

The Painful Truth said...

Neotherm said...
"On the other hand, it is a mystery why some people are believers and others are not."

Armstrong used John:6:44 to explain the "mystery."
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."

This was the invariable hook that sucked so many into the Armstrong empire. The use of this scripture enforced that the cult and its members are special.

#1 "We are different from ordinary people."

#2 "Only another cult member understands."

#3 "We are special because we belong to the right religion."

One commentary says "This drawing is totally beyond our control; it is entirely a sovereign act on the Father's part. Jesus intimates that even He has no say in selecting those drawn to Him to be His disciples."

But is this true?

Suspension of disbelief.
From Linda Berg: " ...we voluntarily suspend disbelief in order to enjoy a movie like Starwars. For a few hours, we allow ourselves to believe in a fantasy world of spaceships and robots and Jedi knights. But we return to reality when the movie ends and we leave the theater."

The person who joins a cult goes through a similar process. In order to become one of the group, they must embrace all of the beliefs and teachings of the cult, so the newcomer suspends his disbelief and enters into the movie. But the person who joins the cult doesn't leave the movie theater. The movie now becomes part of their reality.

In this process of "being called by God" we are required by God to suspend all disbelieve. The cult and its doctrines now has become our "new" reality. This leads to the next reality:

Disturbed Members, Mentally Ill Followers:

#1 “Cult members actually con themselves.”

#2 “Cult members accept the promises of power, spirituality, possible immortality.”

#3 “Cult members accept the promise of punishment if they deviate from the gurus path.”

#4 “Cult members confuse truth with belief.”

#5 “Cult members are taught to attack those who disagree.”

In conclusion, the “calling” that one received is nothing more than a hook that the believer ran across during their daily activities and is fortified by the continual deception of the guru and his sycophants.

The "calling" is the gimmick, the "reality" is the ongoing con.

Tony said...

Hi Betty, good to see you commentating here. After months of overt christian postings, many that sounded so much like the many sermons I endured during my years in WCG, it's great to have what is for me a less painful posting to the painful truth.

Ralph said...

PT, there is yet another aspect to this. By a cult member assuming that s/he is the "called", this sets up a condition in which s/he is at odds with others who assume being "called".

Since neither group can show proof, the natural result will be continual splintering and speciation of the "called".

That, of course, woould take us back to Romans 8:7, declaring that the natural mind is enmity against God, etc.

So, a "believer" faced with the continual splintering toward infinity would be faced with two choices:
1.Keep searching al your life for that which your natural mind can never prove
2.Look at the only logical conclusion: follow no one who claims to reprresent God, since there is no way of making such a choice correctly, thus corresponding to Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:23.

How many people do you suppose would take the second route?

Generally, the only one who would choose correctly would be the atheist. Any other decision would force one to accept continual "subjective" understandings of what it means to serve God.

While such subjective decisions are important and even necessary in one's life, they do not point toward any truth which would be useful in the organization of society, somewhat like Betty's point regarding the Unitarians.

Or to use Purple's argument, with nine million versions of God, who would be correct?

So, looking at John 6:44 logically, there would be no way of choosing, which is why we are told that many simply stopped following Jesus after he made that statement.

Especially after it was stated that he already knew who would betray him.

From a logical point of view, for the atheist or the believer, there is only one correct choice: don't follow any religion.

The Painful Truth said...

Thank's for writing Tony. Interesting blogs.

If you want to go on a little journey without cost, visit Tony's blog:
http://tinyurl.com/2aqtdoo

Allen C. Dexter said...

Welcome, Betty. Glad to see your reasonable offerings begin. Thanks for your take on UU. I've considered going to see what they were all about, but never did.

Byker Bob said...

I both do and don't understand why so many people equate having a daily, walking, and talking relationship with God with joining some sort of cult. On the one hand, we lived that experience. But, since cults introduce controlling gurus into our lives, I'd probably be among the first to "pass" if that were our only choice today.

We endured a very impure process. It was "whored up" to the advantage of a wrong headed organization. What some of us recognize today is that there is a totally different level which our own past cult, though promising it as a natural result of our involvement, actually prevented us from ever reaching. Somehow, our aversions have been overcome. Who knows why some of us have been opened to this next level? As Neo points out, it is a mystery even to us!

I remember back in the sixties, when many white people refused to acknowledge that black people had "soul". Though perhaps not incorporated into the "god" scale, this "soul" was an essence somewhat similar in concept, known by one group of people, but unable to be logically pinned down, defined, or put into mathematical equation. Yet, white people could imbibe of it through music, literature, and cultural experiences like dancing! I'm awfully glad that I've been able to have my black friends in my life, and my joy is even greater to have Jesus!

BB

Byker Bob said...

Betty,

I'd also like to welcome you to the PT blog. I believe your opinions will continue to produce stimulating conversation here, and look forward to that.

I was familiar with your names, but never got to know you or Fred while we were all at AC. You were upper classmen when I arrived, and you were also married students living off campus.

Best wishes for a good month as guest editor!

BB

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

The color-blind analogy can be taken too far. It operates within a narrow window.

I have no physical evidence to offer, no proofs, either scientific or logical. My point is that if you look for God in the physical realm, you will not find proof of his existence.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that one could never postulate a benevolent God by examining nature. Nature is brutal and violent. It is based on merciless competition. This is not God's world. The existence of a benevolent God is not observed but revealed.

-- Neo

The Painful Truth said...

Ralph said...
"From a logical point of view, for the atheist or the believer, there is only one correct choice: don't follow any religion."

In the context of Armstrong-ism I offer up the following as my daily burnt offering:

However, most have not followed this path of logic. All of us x-armstrongist made a choice based on a lie, a fabrication by some guy who it seems by all evidence molested his child.

This very accusation against the apostle does not really seem to phase the associates within the cult. In fact some even believe the accusations but accept Hebert's apostleship as the one and only called of God for a "great work."

This cognitive dissonance (holding two contradictory ideas) may not even be recognized by the believer.

These members allow themselves not only to justify HWA's behavior (David defense) but to declare that yes, God was working through this man.

These members embrace the man and reject the molested child. If Armstrong was alive and the ministers or members had learned of this crime against the child and did nothing about it, they would become accessories after the fact. Hence they would be guilty themselves of the crime.

So as you can see Ralph, people reject logic, embracing in the process, a horrendous evil instead. An evil so disgusting that others have been executed for such crimes.

The believers behavior confirms that their God does not exist. They simply just do not believe what is written in the pages of "that book." They reject their holy book and embrace the laws and decrees of a man over all else. Even decency.

"The only thing worse than being ignorant is not knowing how ignorant you are."

HWA portrayed himself as a refined gentleman with the soundest bible education and morals you can imagine, which we all know is patently absurd. At any rate, when he played the paragon of morality and wisdom, he somehow failed to mention that all he cared about was money.

He failed to mention that he was incapable of looking with an open mind at anything that did not strictly endorse his views. Just like Herbert's clones, those who continue to take advantage of others to achieve their own ruinous ends.

Why do they continue to deceive you ask?

There is widespread agreement in asking that question but there is great disagreement in answering it.

Perhaps one day we will live in a world where good people are not troubled by fear of delirious incompetents.

Until that day arrives, however, we must examine the words of the Old Testament, the book of Kings, where it relates how the priests of Baal were slain for deceiving the people.

Starting with these passages we can begin the journey back to personal safety and security. Forever free from these vitriolic satraps that endorse deintellectualization and promote religious voyeurism.

Retired Prof said...

PT, I have never suffered, at the hands of WCG and UCG members, the following cult treatment you list: #5 “Cult members are taught to attack those who disagree.”

For a while after leaving Ambassador, I continued to attend services with my mother. Finally she urged me not to continue unless I truly desired to be there. In later years she always said she was proud of my accomplishments in the entirely secular path I chose, and we had a loving relationship all her life. My other UCG relatives and I also love one another and enjoy visiting. I know a couple of UCG elders. They accept me for who I am, with no attacks or even subtle recriminations.

I am certainly not mounting a defense of church doctrines or policies. I see no reason to doubt the horror stories posted on the PT website. It is important to note, however, that the destructive relationships described in those stories were not the inevitable result of church doctrines or policies.

The Painful Truth said...

Retired Prof said...

"It is important to note, however, that the destructive relationships described in those stories were not the inevitable result of church doctrines or policies."

Not all testimonies are about church policy and doctrine. And yes, the cults policies and doctrines did destroy plenty of people.

It boils down to those men who abuse the authority that they are given. What follows is the horror stories.

The UCG is a tamer version of Armstrong-ism. It will be interesting to see what the splits look like and who is running the latest splinter(s). Remember that rotten apples falls not far from the tree. We will see the same as we have always seen.

Betty Brogaard said...

Thanks to everyone who has responded so far to my first blog for the month of May--whether "fer" or "agin." The remainder of the month, I hope to write at least once a week about some of my experiences and hope they won't be too boring or irritating.

Betty B.

Corky said...

"Why Do You Believe or Not Believe?"

I do not believe because of:
1. Lack of evidence.
2. Faked evidence.
3. False testimony.
4. Contradictory testimony.
5. Evolution.
6. Archeology.
7. Genetics.
8. Geology.
9. Paleontology.
10. Anthropology.
11. History.
12. Blood sacrifices.
13. Burnt offerings.
14. Barbaric behavior.
15. Misogyny.
16. Use of threats and fear.
17. Broken promises.
18. Failed prophecies.
19. Making thinking a crime.
20. A god with human emotions.

I could list some more but that's a good starter list.

Allen C. Dexter said...

BB says: "Who knows why some of us have been opened to this next level? As Neo points out, it is a mystery even to us!"

The mystery to me is how you can be sure you've been elevated to some "next level." Sounds like the same old "being in the truth" crap we all revelled in in WCG.

Just like I was a very enthusiastic square dancer and reaped much fulfillment and two marriages from the activity, you are getting something you feel you need from your present association. That's fine, but drop the superior sounding, I'm on a special level compared to you terminology, por favor.

As far as I'm concerned, all of Christianity is a cult, always was a cult and will always be a cult. The corrosiveness comes in various degrees and some segments are more benign than others. However, I no longer need or desire that crutch.

Neotherm said...

PT:

Although I cannot support this statement with a survey, I think many people continued to support HWA, even with knowledge of his alleged crime, for a reason other than his "credentials" as an apostle. They would not abandon HWA because they could not admit that they might have made a wrong decision.

Somewhere along the line, those of us who exited Armstrongism have had to admit that we were wrong. Some people will not do that. They will instead reduce dissonance by rationalizing their decision to follow HWA. Soon this becomes their personal struggle against the rest of the world.

--Neo

Ralph said...

Speaking of genetics, I began to think about epigenetics before the name was coined, by reading a book by Philip Slater, published in 1974, called "EarthWalk". Slater starts out a chapter about "curbing the prophet motive", and refers evangelism to Shannon's law in information theory. The more a messatge is repeated, the less information it contains. Proselytizing and evangelism is necessary because a repeated message in an group of non-growth simply dies eventually.

This section fascinated me:

"A system, in other words, needs occasionally to achieve a perception of the universe, including itself, through eyes other than its own, since its sense organs are designed to exclude most information from awareness. The only way to achieve this is to extrude a bit of circuitry which will evolve a perceptual apparatus different from the parent circuit and hence inhale a different vision. But at this point the parent circuit can no longer 'understand' the extruded segment except with residual similarities between the segment's present and original circuitries. In other words, the more information the segment acquires the less able the parent circuit will be able to absorb it."

Slater's example becomes even more interesting:

"A prophet is extruded into the desert, obtains a vision, and returns. He is then either rejected or his vision absorbed and a new circuitry evolved in the parent system. A new prophet is extruded and so on. Clumsily the parent circuit hunches along, like an inchworm, on the information provided by its extruded members...What the prophet sees in his vision is of trivial significance--it is how he sees it that is important...What he innovates is his own internal structure".

When I began studying viruses in 1980, this came back to me, and i realized I was seeing a process by which viruses informed organisms just the way in which Slater described prophets informing their cultures.

It was not the content, but the process, and the process created diversity, as the process of the WCG spawned increasing diversity among its former members. We're talking genetics and evolution here, folks, nothing more.

Corky said...

Allen C. Dexter said...
BB says: "Who knows why some of us have been opened to this next level? As Neo points out, it is a mystery even to us!"

The mystery to me is how you can be sure you've been elevated to some "next level." Sounds like the same old "being in the truth" crap we all revelled in in WCG.

It's not a mystery to me. It is just the way of human nature. People love to think of themselves as being somehow superior to certain others. You would think a spiritual nature (mind) would be different. Which proves that they are no different, only deluded into thinking they have a spiritual mind just because they believe something unbelievable.

Seeking truth is the objective of the curious human mind and has its own reward. Finding the truth is subjective and causes the loss of seeking the objective. From the wcg experience, we know where that will lead - to the bondage of someone else's mind.

Betty Brogaard said...

Thanks, Corky. Well said. You have listed many of my own reasons for not believing.

Neotherm said...

Corky:

I notice that you seem frequently to confuse Armstrongism with Christianity. Many of your statements seem to be more fitting for Armstrongism. My guess is that in your history you went from Armstrongism to Atheism without ever having really much experience with Christianity.

In any case, you are correct. The natural mind likes to think of itself as better than others. This attitude was rampant in Armstrongism. But one of the effects of the Holy Spirit is to bring about the understanding that you are not better than others. Christians believe that God loves everyone the same. You, of course, may find broad segments of nominal Christianity where almost any product of the natural mind may be observed. These people are no more representative of Christianity than an atheist is.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Cory, you said finding the truth is subjective. Is that "truth" in quotations, rather than simply truth?

Of course the truth in a metamathrematical sense is that you can't get there in any complete consistent package, and there is no "higher" level, in either atheist or religious terms.

Assuming something "higher" is merely a process of recursion, in which all values are determined in larger versions of themselves.

If you assume atheism, you will pursue recursive levels of atheism, and if you pursue religion, you merely pursue recursive levels of religion, each of which is merely explained in more or less complex levels of itself.

Neither prove anyting in any absolute sense, nor can they.

However, from the biblical perspective, neither BB nor Neo can offer any claim of any "higher" development or awareness , unless they can prove that they are capable of knowledge of which Paul says God is the only source.

That doesn't place much authority in either point of view, so the best we can claim is that we're all free, for what it's worth.

Ralph said...

Sorry Corky, my spellcheck doesn't want to work, and my old eyes are not so good.

Neotherm said...

"The mystery to me is how you can be sure you've been elevated to some "next level.""

This is the arena of faith. Faith may waver and at times believers seem to falter. But over the long run, there is a sustained relationship.


"Sounds like the same old "being in the truth" crap we all revelled in in WCG.""

Armstrongism aped Christianity. It used the language of Christianity and it used an idiosyncratic rendition of Christian ideas but it did not have the spirit of Christianity. Just as there are people who oppose the Bible without understanding its major themes, there are people who espouse the Bible without understanding its major themes. In general, the latter do more damage than the former.

-- Neo

Neotherm said...

"However, from the biblical perspective, neither BB nor Neo can offer any claim of any "higher" development or awareness , unless they can prove that they are capable of knowledge of which Paul says God is the only source."

Just so. This seems to be exactly our discourse, Ralph. I believe in God. Only God is the source of this knowledge and conviction. Those who have not encountered this source do not believe in God and regard all such beliefs as absurd.

Is this a proof to your satisfaction? I really doubt it. My guess that it will seem absurd.
I offer no other proof nor do I feel the need for a proof. If you want to deny the effect of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians, you certainly may. This does not alter the reality for Christians.

I should hasten to add that not everyone who confesses God is actually being worked with by God. Paul refers to "false brethren."

-- Neo

Allen C. Dexter said...

Ah, the all encompassing and thoroughly nebulous "holy spirit."

Every Christian is convinced he or she has it in abundant measure. It magically gives them a special spiritual intellect -- thousands of varieties now. And, most are also convinced that that the majority of others making similar claims are kidding themselves.

Oh, is it a person in the godhead -- a member of the trinity -- or not?

Seems to me, if you're going to make such claims, it would be a lot more simple and logical to just call it "holy mind." Neither term impresses me in the least.

Corky said...

Neotherm said...
Corky:

I notice that you seem frequently to confuse Armstrongism with Christianity. Many of your statements seem to be more fitting for Armstrongism. My guess is that in your history you went from Armstrongism to Atheism without ever having really much experience with Christianity.

You left off the word "real" just before "Christianity". However, you are guessing wrong. I can argue against the Trinity and hellfire torments doctrines just as well as Armstrongism.

You are using the No True Scotsman fallacy but, go ahead, tell us what is "true Christianity" and what is a "true Christian".

While you're at it, tell us why your "true Christianity" is more true than other "true Christianities". I'm sure everyone here would like to learn that, I know I would.

Corky said...

No Neo, I did not go from Armstrongism to atheism. I spent some more time in the cult of Christadelphianism before I woke up.

Before all that, I was Missionary Baptist. All my sisters were Pentecostal - and wow, am I ever familiar with that.

I have cousins who are JWs and I heard my share of that too.

I've been around just about every kind of "christian" there is and I have yet to find a "true Christian" who could prove that.

Ralph said...

Ah, but Neo, I do believe in God, precisely because I show the proof which you deny.

To argue that you possess something which others do not possess, for ANY possible human system of justification, whether logic, faith, miracles, or whatever justification you might offer, is actually no justification at all.

Logic? There exists no decision procedure by which we may demonstrate God's existence, and Paul himself points out emphatically that we simply cannot exercise such a decision procedure.

Therefore, both logic and the bible deny you proof while that very fact becomes the reason why I do believe in God.

Faith? Miracles? Jesus himself pointed out that false Christs will perfom great signs and wonders, such that even the very elect might be deceived.

Ultimately, no matter how you try to filter out any special truth, Neo, you will end up with some group that is "elect", different, unique, and "all the rest" will not have that something.

The reason is shown in the very words of Jesus himself in Matthew 24. There will come false Christs, false messiahs, and they will proclaim their own messiahship, or they will say "here is Christ, or there".

They will work miralces of such convincing power that IF POSSIBLE, the "very elect" would be deceived.

So you have over 38,000 versions within christianity alone, and you must choose what is truth.

There exists only one possible truthful solution you can choose: you must conclude that there exists no religion that truly represents God, and that is exactly what Jesus says in Matthew 24:23.

He didn't say "Any man except...." There were no exceptions, and in fact, there could be no exceptions, not by any possible standard of reason, logic, or faith.

Neo, I believe in God because I believe in logically proven truth. There exists no human system of authority that can truthfully represent God, and that's exactly what both Paul and Jesus told us. It is logical, it conforms to the physical evidence, so by scientific standards, it must be true. I have no logical reason to doubt that it is true.

OTOH, you offer no proof whatever, even biblically, and state you have something which cannot be proven, known somehow to you, and that makes it correct because you somehow know it.

Neo, even assuming your conclusions are true, that you are somehow in reception of a "signal" which only you can know, you have merely verified Paul's teaching. It would be impossible for any natural mind to know whatever it is you know without some type of special revelation.

However, since there exists no such process for the natural mind, Jesus himself said not to follow any of them, which leaves you out in the cold any way you look at it.

Neotherm said...

Corky:

You asked how a true Christian is defined. First, technically to use an adjective to modify a noun is not a "no true Scotsman" fallacy. This was my point some time back. There must be a certain dialogue that occurs. And if this same dialogue is supported by research that supports the assertion, it is not even a fallacy; it is a refinement.

The Bible warns of false prophets. Paul speaks of being in danger of "false brethren". The wisdom given is "You shall know them by their fruits." Which says that you cannot know them by any one thing in isolation but by all their fruits.

This can be complex, however. C.S. Lewis pointed out that some Christian may seem to be not devout. But that person may be a much better person as a Christian than he would have been otherwise.

It is really difficult for legalists to deal with Christianity. Legalists want to systematize everything. The seven laws of this and the 12 laws of that. Dealing with ambiguity causes them to meltdown. Many people who were attracted to Armstrongism were systematizers. When Christians are not identical "yellow pencils", belief collapses. The demise of the pre-1995 WCG has as much to do with its failure to meet the expectations of the legalists among the lay membership as anything else.

But if you introduce humanity in the equation, there will be variation. The question is does that variation preclude God from accomplishing his purposes? Calvinism and Arminianism are two quite different schools of Christian theology. Yet there are Christians in both camps. Apparently, God can deal with this diversity though many of us cannot.

-- Neo

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

I did not follow all of your argument. But the Biblical "proof" (I would prefer to call this a Biblical Statement. The idea of "proving" was HWAs legalistic substitute for exegesis)you mention is in I Corinthians 2:14.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Neo, introducing human variation into a situation in which even by the most formal methods, all attempts approace infinity, means that there will be no way of knowing by any objective standard exactly what God is or is not doing, or even if there is a God behind it.

The very act of introducing human definition nullifies the proof.

In that context, you would have to admit Paul's statement of Ephesians 2:8-10.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast".

What we have in this instance is that neither faith nor works will gain anythng more than what is already estab;ished to be accomplished, if anything.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them".

There would be an attempt to slide around this by saying that "God has called me, therefore it is up to me to decide how to fulfill what he has created me to do".

Yet the very a ction would of necessity lead to the very subjective variations of which you speak, giving no proof or insight at all that anything had occurred except perhaps something mystical, OR, the natural mind really is enmity against God and all attempts to please God by human efforts are merely in your head.

The fact that it is not definable proves one of two conclusions:
1.There is no God
2.If there is a God, then nothing we do will demonstrate proof of "his" existence.

If you choose either of the above two conclusions, you are forced to conclude that whatever anyone tells you about God, without proof, is irrelevant.

We are again left with the inevitable conclusion of Matthew 24:23, which is logically consistent with evidence and can be proven by simple observation.

AND, we find that Paul's statements of Romans 8:7, and 9:16-22 must be consistent with what we observe, and therefore true by any measurable standard as far as we can observe it, leaving all mystical interpretions of little value except as interesting possibilities.

In social matters, we come to the inevitable conclusion that if there is a God, men must be free to believe/not believe as they see fit, within a legal structure that supports that same freedom in a moral manner.

By "moral manner" I mean a government that does not require people to support the belief in something they do not share by taxation, such as tax exemption granted to churches.

Such exemptions support collectivism at the expense of the individual's right to be free not to believe. Why penalize an atheist for something that cannot be proven to have any social advantage?

Mystical religion should be supported by mystical taxation.

Ralph said...

Neo, this is so easy. 1 Corinthians 2:14 of course comes as an extension of 1 Cor.1:27-29.

There is no process by which we may organize in Gods name, fully consistent with Romans 8 and 9. Since there exists no decision procedure by which the "wise" and "mighty" of the world may prove God, then they become "confounded" by every attempt to demonstrate the existence of God. You have shown no such proof, therefore you are "confounded' in your attempts.

Before going to the verse you reference, back up to verse 11: "...the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God".

Who has the spirit of God? First, you would have to look at Romans 8:7, and 8:29-30. Certainly no natural mind, and since God already foreknows and predestines those who do, you still have no proof whatever that you have that mind. Further, you must also consider Romans 9:16.

You make an unwarranted assumption that will not even be backed biblically. Now to your verse. Who is spiritual? Paul defines the "Holy Spirit" clearly and consistently with Romans 9:7-11.

Thiose who are born of spirit are born of promise, and those who are born of promise are born exactly as Isaac, which is described in Romans 8:29-30.

Now, if you can prove that you are foreknown, predestined, called, and born of the promise as Isaac, in the same manner as Isaac(Galatians 4:28, 3:29), then you would be able to say you have the mind of Christ, a "non-natural' mind.

So who is the "we" that have the mind of Christ? Again, Gal. 4:28.

There is no way that you, I, or anyone can offer any proof whatever that "we" are born of that promise in that same manner as Isaac.

However, on the plus side, since there is no way of knowing, there is no possibility of any person judging any other person as deficient in any sense, even the atheists. We are, therefore, all created equal, and can be judged of no man.

"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth(Romans 8:33)."

There is simply no way you can declare that you have the mind of Christ without first proving that you were foreknown, as Isaac was, predestined, as isaac was, and called and chosen, as Isaac was(Romns 8:29-30), and born of that same promise, as Isaac was(Gal. 3:29, 4:28)

It cannot be done, for the same reason that I cannot declare myself the son of John D. Rockefeller. Either I was born as his son, or I was not, and there is no evidence to suggest that I am. It is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth.

There is simply, logically no way you can demonstrate that you have the spirit of God, not even biblically.

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

"Neo, introducing human variation into a situation in which even by the most formal methods, all attempts approace infinity, means that there will be no way of knowing by any objective standard exactly what God is or is not doing, or even if there is a God behind it."

I agree with this. I do not believe there is an objective (read as non-spiritual) standard by which we may measure anything about God. This, however, does not abnegate a spiritual understanding of God.

"Now, if you can prove that you are foreknown, predestined, called, and born of the promise as Isaac, in the same manner as Isaac(Galatians 4:28, 3:29), then you would be able to say you have the mind of Christ, a "non-natural' mind."

You have constructed a sufficiency condition for conversion that is unknown to Christian exegesis. Nowhere in the Bible does anyone evoke such credentials to identify someone who is Christian. Instead the New Testament has a much simpler pedigree for Christian belief: "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God."
Also, "for whosoever calleth on the name of God sall be saved." These scriptures, of course, imply some preparation in understanding Christian belief.

In summary, I cannot prove to someone else that I have been called nor do I need to. Ultimately, there will be an overt distinction made in an event called the judgement. If you are around of this event, you can see who was a Christian and who was not.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Nowhere in the bible? You gotta be shitting me. Nothing could be more plainly stated.

Selective hearing, selective reading, picking and proof texting.

Paul described the whole process as plainly as it can possibly be described, and you simply choose to ignore the obvious and call your understanding spiritual, like over 38,000 other versions doing exactly the same thing.

If faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, why in the world would Jesus warn exactly against deception, and why would he tell us not to follow or believe any of that crap?

Because there's no proof whatever that you can ever be correct, that's why.

So, Paul comes along and days that the "elect" receives the word and the rest were blinded, but somehow, by some mystical process that you have no way of proving, you're not one of those blinded.

"I believe because I believe. Don't bother me with logic, don't even point out that the bible itself contradicts the whole foudation of my beliefs. I know because I know".

Ralph said...

From Slater's "EarthWalk":

"When man invented the machine, for which there is no external model in nature, he invented it in his own image. The machine does not come from nowhere--it mirrors man's mechanical head...As Weston LaBarre points out, reality alone cannot make an animal neurotic. It takes the application of some twisted symbolic system to wreck an animal's responsivity...Human beings are 'freed' from the instinctual necessity of inhibiting aggression when a cospecific yields. A machine is free from everything but its program. A blind man is free from the blinding sun, a deaf man from the deafening thunder...When fear outstrips anger it will run if it can. A machine-like response in the face of danger had no real value until men began to make war on each other...the most mechanical peoples won over those less so, so that a profound cultural selection took place. Evolution is full of such mistakes."

Only the machine can ignore feedback from its environment and respond to its own internal circuitry. That's how systems grow, and how they make war.

The insistence that one is right, even in the face of growing evidence to the contrary, is a mechanical response, not a spiritual response.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I did not become an unbeliever because I was angry with any deity or human being, for that matter, nor because my life was filled with disappointment or anguish. My humanistic atheism developed gradually through intensive personal research and study over many years. I began my investigation of religion because I had so many questions about the Bible and what I was taught it means, what others of different denominations say it means..."

Yep, that was my journey, too. (Still is, in a lot of ways.) Those who claim we are bitter/angry/etc., are just projecting their own flaws onto us; for, if we are happy, well-adjusted, etcetera, without THEIR god in our lives, then their god really must be meaningless, outside their own heads, right?

It's a spiritual truth that makes the vast majority of believers extremely uncomfortable.

Wow, 42 comments....The meaning of life?? ;-) Time to read through them, I guess....

Purple Hymnal said...

"I notice that you seem frequently to confuse Armstrongism with Christianity. Many of your statements seem to be more fitting for Armstrongism."

Instead of accepting that fact as a blanket falsehood, Neo, you need to ask yourself WHY most of Corky's statements could be applied to either Armstrongism OR professing Christianity?

Purple Hymnal said...

"Ah, the all encompassing and thoroughly nebulous 'holy spirit.'"

That was the church's version of the holy spirit, Allen; Christianity's version comes in 38,000 flavours, none of them the same as ours was, the gravest of "heresies", as far as they were concerned.

Many long years after I left belief behind, the church's version of "the Holy Spirit" was still in the back of my mind, and was, quite honestly, something I did not want to let go of. I still don't, some days, which is why you may see me discussing panentheism ad nauseam betimes.

Do I "believe" that panentheism is "true"? No, because there's no objective proof for it, at least not until the Large Hadron Collider starts providing results even we lay-people can understand. Still, the concept that "there is no 'there', there" because all of us and everything around us, natural or man-made, is connected at the subatomic level, by virtue of the universe we live in, is at least plausible by quantum physics and (the now-superseded by E8 theory) super-string theory.

Still, the vestiges of "the holy spirit" I carry around in my head from my days in the church, have nothing to do with any external, supranatural entity, and everything to do with the way my own mirror neurons have been (mis?)-wired by my exposure to "pure" Armstrongism, from the cradle, until I was an adult.

If I was less skeptical, and more willing to make that leap of blind faith that Neo and BB have done, I certainly wouldn't go towards Christianity, it would be a more individualized, Gnostic sort of panentheistic praxis; which is essentially what I engage in, right now.

The only difference is, if I were to willingly close my eyes and blind myself for the sake of "faith", I would be denying the very precepts of gnosticism, which teach us NOT to be as "the blind god", not to shut our eyes and ears to what we see around us.

Too, as James points out, the fact that I would even question the obvious falsehood of Armstrong's "teachings" for the sake of the booze-addled, daughter-diddling adman's "Worldwide" ponzi scheme, speaks volumes to why there's no WAY I would ever succumb to ANY kind of faith again; even within the philosophies that I have more than a passing interest in.

Which doesn't make me popular amongst their adherents, either; I've already been kicked to the curb (from Internet discussion boards) by the Gnostics, and at least one religious evangelical who's part of a disturbing movement to completely Christianize (in the fundamentalist, evangelical sense) Quakerism in North America....I'd take up with the Buddhists, since their philosophy doesn't have a god in it to begin with (it's a bit complicated, but it squares with "the divine within" idea from Gnosticism), but unfortunately their meditation techniques don't do squat for me....

As you can tell from the above, I do try and engage in a fair amount of reading outside of the narrow boxes of Christian theism and Christian atheism; since the "reality" of the gods that men create is a non-starter for me, I try (when I remember) to meet people where they are, and learn what their reality means to them. Harder to do with Christians, who insist their reality must be imposed upon everyone else...talk about your cult indoctrination!

My long and rambling paragraphs above can probably be summed up in the rather pithy, THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, people! :-) I certainly have, and I relish the freedom I have, in continuing to do so.

Betty Brogaard said...

Puple Hymnal, you and I seem to be on the same wave length in a lot of ways. Your advice about "thinking outside the box" is wise. In my case, however, I have gotten rid of even the "box."

The Painful Truth said...

Corkey,
Is this you?
http://hwarmstrong.com/jesus-in-history.html

Ralph said...

That's an interesting historical concept on which one can jump regarding Paul, except it ignores the contents of Paul's teachings, which don't even resemble Mithraism.

1.Paul merely taught that the promise made by YHVH to Abraham superseded the law at Sinai. Since it cqame 430 years before the law, it stands wholly apart from the law.
2. The promise made to Abraham was simple and simply explained by Paul. Essentially, YHVH told Abraham: "You will have a son. This son will be born by my power and not your own, and will be the fulfillment of my promise to you. Throughout history, there will be other children born of that same promise, foreknown by me, predestined by me, and they will do as I have decided."

3. All these "special children" will be born precisely as Isaac was born, of that same promise as Isaac was born, foreknown, predestined, called, and chosen, as Isaac was (Romans 8:29-30, Galatians 3:29, Gal. 4:28.

4, What most christians mistakenly call the "Holy Spirit" is merely the term applied to that birth of promise in which those select children are born(Eph.1:4,5,13,14).

Beginning in Romans 9:7, Paul carefully explains this birth of promise. As stated, clearly, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called".

In verse 8, we see that those children of the flesh(Israel) are NOT the children of promise. Notice that Paul, in that same verse, calls the children of promise the children of God.

What promise? In verse 9, Paul leaves no doubt. In verse 11, he clearly states that these children are born having done neither good nor evil, that the purpose of God according to election will stand.

From verses 12-22, Paul goes to great lengths to establish that there is nothing whatever anyone can do to alter this promise.

In Galatians 4:29, Paul uses the terms "promise" and 'spirit" interchangeably, so that the "Holy Spirit" applies specifically to those born of promise, and the birth of "flesh" applies to Israel.

Jesus' statement to Nicodemus in John 3 corresponds to this description, "that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit".

Deal made between YHVH and Abraham, transcending the law, transcending the efforts of any human, and not dependent on human works(Eph. 2:8-10).

Simple, basic, and completely eliminates all religions.

Tony said...

PH says:

"Yep, that was my journey, too. (Still is, in a lot of ways.) Those who claim we are bitter/angry/etc., are just projecting their own flaws onto us; "

I've certainly seen that in the posts I've followed on the PT blog in recent times.

BB claims non-believers are arrogant yet we have believers posting who claim a "spiritual" mind.

I wish the believers would stop projecting to the non-believers how wonderful their Jesus is and how happy it makes them to belief in him.

There are others, like me, on the other side of belief who realize how happy they are because they've been able to walk away from the superstition and faith, to a world of reason. Getting away from the guilt of Armstrongism and Christianity is a huge weight off my shoulders.

I'm not a sinner.

And it feels really good to realize that.

Corky said...

The Painful Truth said...
Corkey,
Is this you?
http://hwarmstrong.com/jesus-in-history.html
******************
Yes it is, but the article from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica on "Mithra" is shown to be bogus.

Completely bogus, in fact. What to do when you can't trust the Encyclopedia to print a truthful article - throw out that information.

While you're are at it, just throw out all my articles on the PT. I depended on bogus sources and have moved far away from that stuff.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Purple, if I follow you correctly, we're on much the same wavelength where something like the "Holy Spirit" is concerned.

I, too, try to think outside all boxes. I certainly don't believe in a literal entity that would be called "holy spirit." Neither am I convinced that there is validity to the name in any sense. It's just biblical gobbledygook as far as I'm concerned.

As i've stated before, the Bible means nothing to me anymore. That's why I will rarely respond to Ralph or anyone else who refers to it. It means no more to me than the Iliad or the Odyssey, or the Bhagavad Gita. I tried reading that last one and gave up pretty soon. Too bad I wasn't that smart years ago where the Bible was concerned.

Purple Hymnal said...

"In my case, however, I have gotten rid of even the "box."

Eh, I'd say I have too (I definitely don't go in for any of the major religions), and most of the meditative/contemplative stuff I engage in is mostly hacking my own brain. I have no delusions that my meditations take me outside of my own head; however, they *do* help with the anxiety that does live out there, when I am in "the world".

"I wish the believers would stop projecting to the non-believers how wonderful their Jesus is and how happy it makes them to belief in him."

THIS! Not to mention the fact that there ARE other believers in the supernatural in this world...who are not now, never have been, and never will be, Christians.

"Purple, if I follow you correctly, we're on much the same wavelength where something like the "Holy Spirit" is concerned."

Is that a good thing, though? Maybe Betty is right, and we need to get rid of "the box"...that last box, at any rate. Not that Armstrong ever taught panentheism though; even Gracie's current ministers (or Ted Johnston at least) reject panentheism....


"As i've stated before, the Bible means nothing to me anymore. That's why I will rarely respond to Ralph or anyone else who refers to it."

Considering the fact that Ralph's Bible is limited to three or four short verses, it's strange to see how he manages to expound at such great lengths, on such a short treatise....Oh, but wait, that's probably going to be misconstrued as an ad hominem attack though....

"It means no more to me than the Iliad or the Odyssey, or the Bhagavad Gita. I tried reading that last one and gave up pretty soon."

Eh. Some of the English translations are OK. I'm not much for the Buddhist or Hindu texts (there are more translations of them, than the Christian ones!) and I do confess a fondness for the Mandaean/Manichaean texts, with a little bit of Thomas and Philip (Gnostic gospels) sprinkled on top.

I don't take ANY of them as authoritative, though; I won't give that kind of power to a goddamned book, ANY goddamned book, ever again.

Can I get an "Amen" brethren?! ;)

Ralph said...

Actually it is an ad hominem attack in form. You see, all I need is just three or four short verses to totally destroy any attack you might make on the validity of Paul's teachings.

The questions remain:

Is there any decision procedure by which we may show any special relationship to God?

You answer no, so does Paul.

In order to prove Paul wrong, you would have to deny your own conclusions.

I only need three or four scriptures because, as yet, you have provided absolutely nothing to counter them.

You have built straw men to attack, you have made general references with no specific content to which I can respond, and where you have provided your point of view, I have shown those three or four verses to be consistent with all your arguments.

If you could some way, any way, answer those three or four, we might proceed to something more interesting, but as I've repeated, YOU CAN'T.

Now, I have no concern about saving your soul, or proving you a sinner, or justifying christianity, because christianity is crap.

You have no answer, so you choose not to directly respond, and that makes me the winner in each case.

I like having the undefeatable argument. I'm an asshole who likes winning, and don't that piss you off!

Ralph said...

Allen, it wouldn't matter whether you respondede to any argument i make about the bible, because if you took me on, I'd win. It's that simple.
What you haven't seen yet is that you have just taken the opposite form of Neo. Neo has selected certain things which justify his point of view to the exclusion of all else, while you close your mind selectively to those things that do not suit your point of view.

Bot of you, in this regard, are "extremists" to the same degree, but simply choose to exclude all opposing arguments to your new preselcted truths.

I argue, OTOH, that there is NO valid human concept of God, and that there never was, which is fully consistent with Paul's three or four verse, as Purple says.

A single, fundamental, logical statement that eliminates not only all religions, but all human viewpoints that seek to discover God by human reasoning.

One of the things that I find most interesting about the ex-WCG'ers, including myself, is a tendency toward extremism in one form or another. We're either all the way "for" or all the way "against", but once we decide something, there cannot possibly be anything that would ever convince us again to look at new possibilities.

We're as close minded as we ever were, we just develop new defenses to justify that closed mindedness.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Ralph, it's not a matter of taking you on or winning. Those verses say what you claim they say.

The point is, I don't care. I don't consider the Bible an authority for anything. I don't believe the veracity and reality of either Jesus or Paul, so whatever they supposedly said or wrote, is inconsequential to me. So, why would I waste my time on it?

Ralph said...

It's interesting that verse say what it is claimed they say, but to say then that the authors, whoever they were, have no veracity for you.
Of courwse, you can deny the veracity of Jesus' or Paul's existence, but the stement itself is true, therefore giving it veracity of itself.

Of course it doesn;t matter whether or not the bible has meaning to you, since it wouldn't matter in either case, whether you believed it or not.

If those statements are true, they would be dependent on neither your or my beliefs. They would be true only because they are true.

Here is an interesting aspect of "veracity". A statement can be true in the sense that it is consistent with reality as far as we can prove, and yet it cannot be proven true in any absolute sense.

But that, of course, would bring us to an aspect of Godel's theorem.

The fact that you have no interest in it or see any authority in it could actually be seen as confirmation of its truth!

That is the variation of the argument that BB and Neo tend to use. It was basic to HWA's "truth".

"You don't see it because you don't have a spiritual mind". Forget even trying to define what a spiritual mind is. If you can't define it, how would you know you have it?

Neo points out that there will be a judgement, yet if God were to judge by logical standards and their consistency with observabl facts, God would logically choose me over Neo.

But the fact, is, such choices are clearly not dependent on such efforts by humans, so, there is no "superior" process by which either of us would be chosen, at least not from a human viewpoint.

As verified by Purple Hymnal, there is no there, there.

Evcery argument you would use, mathematically or otherwise, would tend to verify that same conclusion. Can't get there from here.

Ralph said...

As to "thinking outside the box", I was satisfied with that for a couple of yeas after I left the WCG, and then I made the mistake of joining the marines on the advice of a neighbor friend.

I quickly discovered that the government doesn't give a damn whether you trhink outside the box. They're gonna bust your ass unless you can come up with a pretty good argument showing why they can't. Catch-22: we can do anything you can't stop us from doing.

I discovered the quite useful method of using God to trump the state, and the state to trump God, when necessary. It works.

If the state prosecutes you, and you say "I have rights!" They might ask "Civil Rights?"

If you answer "yes", you're screwed, because civil rights are those rights granted within the already defined concepts of law.

14th amendment: no state shall make or enforce any law which abridges the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

As a citizen, your rights are limited to those rights applied as members in good standing having "allegiance" to the US.

That's why I always argue "due process", not privileges or immunities.

Due process, copuied from the 5thinto the 14th amendment, pre-existed both state and federal constitutions, and by law, both state and federal government must recognize it before they can take life, liberty, or property from you for ANY reason, whether you're a citizen or not.

I'm not satisfied with just thinking outside the box. I like LIVING outside the box, and you can only live outside the box in this counttry if you know how to make them recognize their own damn legal principles.

Neotherm said...

Regarding the unbelievers who contribute to this blog, my guess is that most of you are atheists.

This means that for you, there is no God. You are just biobots and your mental processes are the product of evolution (a presumption). There is nothing meaningful in your lives. The universe will march on without you. It is a meaningless universe in which there is a meaningless process that produces meaningless results that just happened to come into existence called evolution. One day you will die and will never exist in any form thereafter.

The only organization (not meaning) that we might find is that evolution has determined that certain mental processes are conducive to survival (I am not sure how but I am certain that Richard Dawkins can come up with an imaginative anecdote as to why we think the way we do and how it is determined by natural selection). This is the only thing that might remotely resemble a value system in your world.

But when we look around the world, most of the survivors are theists. This means that atheism is selected against. This means that you are on the wrong side of the evolutionary street.

Given this theme of meainglessness that permeates everything, why are you so spun up about the Bible, God, the Holy Spirit and the natural mind? Couldn't you just as valuably be off someplace scratching your anatomy?

-- Neo

Ralph said...

That's the thing, Neo, I find myself 60 years old, and all I've ever heard is how I ought to do this, or do that, or obey this, or obey that, and I wake up one day and find that nobody else knows one damn thing more about it than I do.

What the hell gives other people less intelligent than I am the right to tell me what I ought to do or not do?

Take traffic court for example. They give you this damn ticket that says you must pay a fine for a violation, but the 14th amendment says they can't deprive you of Jack until you've had due process of law. But ask the cop if you have to go to court and he'll say "No". Who the hell gave him the authority? The constitution says no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. Tat means court room time, actually arguing your case, and no state is permitted to deny it to any person, yet they do.

And when you get there, is it a crime? No, it's only a violation. If it was a crime, you'd enjoy, thatt's the word, "enjoy" trial by jury. But since it's only a violation and not mentioned anywhere in the constitution, you get to enjoy a legal lap dance and then they charge you about a hundred bucks.

If it was a crime, you'd have the right against self incrimination, but since it's only a violation, nowhere mentioned in the constitution, you don't get a right aganst self violation.

But you can't violate yourself. I know, because there have been lonesome times when I've tried.

A violation is preventive law, a legal condom. That's how you get screwed without the benefit of right against self incrimination.

A violation is not a crime. If I violated a woman, it would be a crime. But not if I violate the law. If I violated a woman, or was a rapist, pedophile, or serial killer, they'd bend over backwards to tell me my rights. But since the law itself is the accuser, you don't hear Jack about no rights.

Of course they do it to men and women equally, which makes the law decidedly male bi-sexual in its orientation.

And before they even begin to do that, they ask you to place your hand on the bible and swear before God, thus giving them holy permission for your legal lap dance.

Retired Prof said...

Neo, can you clarify what you mean by "meaning"?

In ordinary usage, a thing with meaning is considered a sign. There are two kinds, broadly speaking.

The one that usually comes to mind first is the intentional sign, or text, such as a traffic light, or a national flag, or a word, or a series of words organized by syntax into phrases and sentences, with sentences perhaps then arranged into stanzas, chapters, and so on. Another word for this kind of sign is "message." If we know enough about the culture of the person(s) who produced the sign and the context within which it was produced, we can interpret it. We get its meaning.

Just as familiar is the natural sign, such as the coyote tracks I found today where I buried garbage in my garden yesterday or the thunder and lightning that announce the approach of a thunderstorm. With experience we can interpret the meanings of natural signs independent of culture, although the guidance of our cultural forebears can speed the learning process. (It may also lead us to misread signs, delaying the process.)

By saying atheists are beset by meaninglessness, you imply that you, a non-atheist, know meaning. From what kind(s) of signs do you get that meaning-- messages, or natural signs? Can you teach others how to parse the sign(s) and thus discover meaning for themselves? Are you sure you are interpreting them accurately?

Thanks for using the phrase "organization (not meaning)"; with that you make it clear that the process of evolution, and presumably the overall organization of the universe, is meaningless. That clarification eliminates a certain range of possibilities for what you mean by "meaning," and for what you consider to be a sign of your kind of meaning. However, it leaves a wide range of possibilities unspecified. Can you pin it down closer?

Also, are you absolutely certain that atheists are helplessly floundering in meaninglessness? We human beings are notoriously unreliable when we make pronouncements about the inner lives of people we disagree with.

Speaking of which, is my understanding of "meaning" way off the mark of what you were thinking of? Am I asking the wrong questions?

Byker Bob said...

Part of what reinforces our belief or non-belief is the daily experiences which we go through. I'd submit for consideration the fact that my life is probably vastly different from many of the other posters here.

Take as an example Saturday. I was wrestling with some of my attitudes, and decided to get close to God by getting out into nature. Some amazing things have happened for me while doing this in the past, such as the time I was at the peak of a mountain, reading the gospel of Mark, looked to my right, and suddenly became aware of a dove sitting right next to me! Or the time I was on a bicycle ride and stopped to pray in a dry creek bed. When I finished and got back on my bicycle, a huge, white, albino hawk of some sort began alternately following, and flying out in front of me. This went on for some time!

Anyhoo, I was climbing one of my favorite trails on Saturday, and was just talking things out with God as I hiked along. Suddenly, I heard the shake of a rattlesnake's tail. I realized I'd been warned that I was encroaching on habitat, and looked down to the side of the trail. There he was. At this point, he was stretched out, not coiled, so I slowed to a stop, not making any sudden moves. My first impulse was to slowly back up, and get out of there. I looked down the trail, and then up the trail.

Down the trail from me were two Arab ladies, hiking with their pre-teen children. I knew I had God's protection, because if He'd intended this to be some sort of personal trial, I'd have been bitten already. But, I realized that these ladies and their children probably believed in Allah, a non-existent entity, and without some sort of protection, their children would be subject to simple probability if they continued on course. Kids are kids, and one of them might have actually stepped on, and been bitten by the rattler. I called out to them as they approached, and stood in position by the snake, instructing them to pass in back of me where they would be safe. The snake continued to go about his business, apparently also feeling safe himself. When everyone was out of danger, I continued my hike up the mountain, warning all the other hikers that the rattlers were definitely out!

I knew what some of the comments would be before posting this, but elected to post it anyway. Things of this nature happen to me on a regular basis. On a bicycle ride, right before last Thanksgiving, I suddenly found myself passing through a swarm of black bees. Had I stopped the split second this became apparent, it would have been right in the center of their community, and as someone who had agitated them. That would have been a bad mistake! All I had time to do was to utter, "Father, please!" I was hit several dozen times, but was not stung a single time. Beekeepers utilize smoke to calm such a swarm, and they usually have protective clothing on while doing this!

The God I serve is both personal, and personable, and is faithfully watching out for my best spiritual interests. These days, I encourage Him to walk with me. I wouldn't think of setting up some kind of logical or objectivist wall or set of filters to rule Him out!

BB

The Painful Truth said...

Corkey,
Done.

Ralph said...

BB, it could have been demons ;)

Oops! I've blasphemed against the Holy Spirit!

Purple Hymnal said...

"This means that for you, there is no God."

Not entirely accurate; I have not created my own god to believe in.

You are just biobots and your mental processes are the product of evolution (a presumption)."

Incorrect. Evolution is not "a presumption", it is solid science.

"There is nothing meaningful in your lives."

Incorrect. This is a falsehood from the argument that Betty refuted in her very post:

"I did not become an unbeliever because I was angry with any deity or human being, for that matter, nor because my life was filled with disappointment or anguish."

It is the delusion of those who create their own blind gods, and thus blind themselves, to make the wrong-headed assumption that those who do not pay fealty to the blind god, are somehow unhappy, unstable, mentally ill, etcetera.

As the bus ads proclaim, "You CAN be good -- WITHOUT God!"

I certainly try my best to do so.

Purple Hymnal said...

"But, I realized that these ladies and their children probably believed in Allah, a non-existent entity,"

Your prejudice and bigotry is disgusting, Bob, I didn't read your narrative any further.

If you Christians want us to accept that YOUR god is real for YOU, YOU have to accept that other religions' adherents gods are real for THEM too.

You can dish it out, but you can't take it, can you?

Disgusting. Purely, absolutely, close-mindedly disgusting.

For all you know, those "Arab ladies" could have been 2nd or 3rd-generation Americans, and Presbyterians, at that! Snap judgements...seems to me your own personal saviour fella was against that kind of thing, hmmmmmm?

Absolutely disgusting. Instructive of the professing Christian mindset, however.

Neotherm said...

Retired Prof:

The distinction I would draw is between meaning and knowledge. Knowledge is the answer to the question "what is it" and meaning is the answer to the question "what is it about". That's primitive. I am not a philospher.

An example might be the moon. The moon is a satellite and possesses many astronomical attributes. To know all this does not give the moon meaning.

If we say that the moon was created by God and placed in the sky to mark time and provide light, we have enveloped a collection of data points that define the moon in origin and purpose. Now the moon has meaning. Admittedly, many on this blog would not accept this meaning.

What I am saying is that for the atheist, there are only the data points. These data points would include function. But the function just ocurred as a random permutation of conditions. It is just another data point.

In fact, it would be a violation of the fundamental nature of atheism to even conjecture meaning. To conjecture meaning is to conjecture intention on the part of someone. Atheists believe that there was never anyone to have an intention. Things just exist because they exist.

-- Neo

Neotherm said...

Purple Hymnal:

"Not entirely accurate; I have not created my own god to believe in."

I did not understand the point of this response.

"Incorrect. Evolution is not "a presumption", it is solid science."

I also believe in evolution. I was referring to idea that the human mind resulted from evolution. I think that is a point on which there may be many views. I personally believe that the human awareness and personality do not have a simple organic basis, hence, my use of the word presumption.

My words: "There is nothing meaningful in your lives."

"Incorrect. This is a falsehood from the argument that Betty refuted in her very post:"

"I did not become an unbeliever because I was angry with any deity or human being, for that matter, nor because my life was filled with disappointment or anguish."

"It is the delusion of those who create their own blind gods, and thus blind themselves, to make the wrong-headed assumption that those who do not pay fealty to the blind god, are somehow unhappy, unstable, mentally ill, etcetera."

I am not saying that you are unhappy, unstable, mentally ill or any such meaningful thing. I am saying that you believe that what you think is just the product of evolution. It has no real value except, perhaps, a survival value. But survival doesn't mean anything either. Ultimately, entropy sets in ad the universe deconstructs. For you things exist and things happen but none of it means anything.

Betty sat down one day and decided that there was no God. (If God did not open her mind to his existence, she could not have honestly concluded anything else.) But in doing this, she denied that anything has meaning. Her own personal thoughts, behaviors and feelings are just a product of evolution. Evolution, however, is directed towards survival. But survival for what? It is a meaningless process in a meaningless universe. In fact it is a meaningless gesture for Betty to write a book on atheism. She should not care nor should any other atheist care what someone else thinks about the topic of god.

-- Neo

Retired Prof said...

Neo, in relation to the question of meaning you mention “origin and purpose,” and you distinguish purpose, which derives from intentionality, from mere “function,” which can arise from purely mechanistic interactions.

Let’s examine your term “origin” first. Treating the matter and energy of the universe as natural signs, secular thinkers have come up with a number of interpretations as alternates to “God did it.” In my youth, the favorite was that the universe had always existed in a steady state, making god superfluous and therefore (following Occam’s Razor) improbable. New observations of redshifts and supernovas made the steady state view untenable and led cosmologists to interpret the new set of signs to mean that the universe had a single point of origin in time, the “big bang.” This reading of the signs left room for god to have lit the fuse. Since then, some scientists have interpreted the signs to mean that the universe periodically slams together and bounces outward again, creating the illusion from our perspective of a single origin. Others think the signs signify that our universe is only one of an infinite series of “bubbles” continuously erupting spontaneously. Both of these render a creator superfluous again. In terms of answering “How did it all start?” none of these readings of the signs, including “God did it” are devoid of meaning. The steady state explanation is almost certainly wrong, and possibly they all are, including the creationist one. An erroneous statement is not the same thing as a meaningless one, however.

It is your statement “To conjecture meaning is to conjecture intention on the part of someone” that helps me most to understand what you mean by “meaning.” If god did it on purpose, it has meaning. Otherwise not. Answers to “What?” “How?” “When?” and “Where?” are meaningless because they provide nothing but data points for answering the meaningful questions “Who?” and “Why?” The only meaningful answer to “Who?” is “God.” The only meaningful answer to “Why?” is “To provide a place for human beings.” Is that an accurate paraphrase?

For my take on this idea, please click on “Shower Stall Scum” in the More Topics section on the PT website home page.

Or perhaps you don’t see the universe as a natural sign of god’s intentions, but as a text—a message—he created specifically to say, “Pay attention. I exist. Worship me the way I deserve.”

My short answer to this interpretation is, “Not credible.” If god was mighty enough to bring all the data points in the universe into being and arrange them as a text, he was mighty enough to make its message clear to everyone who read it. (I wrote a detailed critique of this idea for PT, but it is no longer accessible, as far as I can tell.) Didn’t happen, obviously. Not even two such clear-headed sign-readers as you and I can agree on what it means. On the scale of humanity as a whole, please note how much disagreement there has always been over who the creator is and how he deserves to be worshiped. Empirical evidence that the text, if it is one, is hopelessly ambiguous.

Your last two sentences sum up pretty accurately the attitude of those atheists who have as firm a faith in the non-existence of god as you have in his existence. More cautious unbelievers would leave out the word “believe” and rephrase your last two sentences as, “We see no clear signs that there was ever anyone to have an intention. Perhaps things just exist because they exist.”

purplehymnal said...

" Neotherm said...

Purple Hymnal:

"Not entirely accurate; I have not created my own god to believe in."

I did not understand the point of this response."


I believe that men create gods, and I believe early mystics and contemplatives were aware of this fact, and actively warned against it. Three thousand years later, the message may have gotten lost in translation.


"I also believe in evolution. I was referring to idea that the human mind resulted from evolution."

The human mind DID result from evolution; social bonding, pattern recognition, all these things evolved to help humanity survive, all of which, taken as a cumulative whole, led to human consciousness.

Can't eat your cake and have it too. Your statement is a denial of reality that I find disturbing, Neo.

"I personally believe that the human awareness and personality do not have a simple organic basis..."

PROVE THIS.

"I am not saying that you are unhappy, unstable, mentally ill or any such meaningful thing. I am saying that you believe that what you think is just the product of evolution. It has no real value except, perhaps, a survival value."

A finite survival value, yes.

"But survival doesn't mean anything either."

Not after we're gone, which is why it's good to live the best life you have with the only life you've got, not pine for some hereafter that has not been proven to exist.

"Ultimately, entropy sets in ad the universe deconstructs. For you things exist and things happen but none of it means anything."

What is it supposed to "mean"?

Ralph said...

After picking at BB and Neo, it of course becomes just as easy to take their side. For example, it is quite possible that "God" or something has opened their minds to that which is not within the power of logic or reason.

Nothng in Godel's theorem denies such ability. The only thing we can demonstrate is that in any consistent axiomatic formulation of number theoryt(or any sufficiently complex formal system such as law) there exists an infinity of undecidable propositions. As Purple has stated in various forms(along with myself), you can't get "there" from "here", and as to all axiomatic formulations of truth, "there is no there, there".

However, can we concluded that existence itself reflects this inabilty of the human mind to arrive at truth? WExiastence exists, and what we call existence must obviouls y exist in such a way that it does not contradict itself.

The problem isn't with existence, but with our inability to describe it in a complete and consistent fashion.

Take, for example, Retired Prof and Neo's statements on knowledge and meaning. We can all jump in and define both into near infinity, quite possibly, and arrive at no significant conclusion in any complete, consistent form.

It is quite possible within Godel's theorem, that Neo and BB have discovered a truth transcending the laws of logic and reason, since both have been proven to be incomplete and inconsistent.

The problem, however, is in tranbslating that understanding into something which can be understood by the axiomatic rules and laws that allow us to derive knowledge and meaning. The very act of translating it into language makes it subject to the limitations of Godel's theorem.

It is theoretically possible that Neo and BB have received knowledge coming from God or some higher source, which will then dissolve into meaninglessness the instant they try to transmit it as language. Assuming their source exists, we can only detrive one logical conclusion: that such knowledge was never intended as a source by which any human would derive power over another human.

Ralph said...

To continue the "pro" and "con" argument for God(if "pro" is the opposite of "con", what is the opposite of "progress"?), we already know that, wiothin our very best consistent axiomatic formal systems, there exist undecidable propositions.

But if such an infinity of impossibles exist WITHIN that system, how in the world would we conceive of something OUTSIDE that system as being complete and consistent?

The answer is we can't, because they very process of understanding or 'grokking" such a system would rquire that we abandon the very process by which we derive logical and scientific truth. It would, of necessity, require a "leap of faith".

Here is the problem: the instant we take the leap, we are forced to define and decipher that understanding into the very process that prove to be incomplete and inconsistent in the first place. That very understanding, applied to human language and reason, would dissolve into thin air.

IOW, we would be fored to prove the complete and comnsistent existence of something "out there" by using the very proofs which are themselves incomplete and inconsistent!

Therefore, you can believe in something more and there is every possibility that it exists, and you have found it, but proof is impossible. The logical result of this is that every human being has the right to live as s/he sees fit as long as s/he harms no one else, and there exists no provable "higher power" to say otherwise. That includes both church and state.

Neotherm said...

Purple Hymnal:

You wrote: "The human mind DID result from evolution; social bonding, pattern recognition, all these things evolved to help humanity survive, all of which, taken as a cumulative whole, led to human consciousness. Can't eat your cake and have it too. Your statement is a denial of reality that I find disturbing, Neo."

Don't let this disturb you because it is a point of great controversy among many people. The facts are if we are to predicate human mind on organic structures and chemical reactions, chimpanizees would have an IQ of 95.

"Prove this."

How about you prove it is not true. And if you are just a product of wandering molecules, why would I need to prove it to you?

You wrote: "Not after we're gone, which is why it's good to live the best life you have with the only life you've got, not pine for some hereafter that has not been proven to exist."

How did you arrive at the word "best". This implies some kind of value system which of course is impossible in a meaningless universe where good and evil do not exist. Any one thing for you should not be better than anything else.

-- Neo

Allen C. Dexter said...

Ralph,

There are nuggets of truth to be found all over the place. The Koran has an occassional truth. So do the writings of Karl Marx. That doesn't mean I'm going to study them intensively or give credence to them.

Even a blind pig will happen on an acorn once in a while.

Yeah, I'm turned off on the Bible. I have good reason to be. It's myth, legend and spurious nonsense. Whoever wants to spend their time on it is welcome to do so, as far as I'm concerned. But, I have an aversion to it, and it's deep seated. I think if there is some entity that could be called god, that entity isn't too enthralled with the book either.

It has affected our culture and I understand how. So, we have to deal with it whether we like it or not.

Ralph said...

Allen, for every proof you offer as to why the bible is myth and nonsense, I will show a stronger proof why you are wrong. Wanna bet?

I can understand your opinion, as long as you classify it as opinion, but your denigrating statements without proof do not merely constitute opinion. They constitute attempts to prejudice others on making up their own minds.

If you notice, I can take both sides equally, even though I'm predisposed toward the bible because it speaks truth that stands up to scrutiny.

Ralph said...

BTW, I have studied Marx, but not the Koran, since the Koran is an unnecesary study, based on the promise made to Abraham, and therefore a human interpretation as to what it would mean.

For further discussion, I can explain why that is so.

Byker Bob said...

Purple,

I have a difficult time understanding you sometimes, and I wrestle with your particular perspectives regarding open mindedness and closed mindedness. Had you read further, you would have discovered that I deliberately put myself within striking distance of that snake to protect the Arab ladies and their children! Clearly this was not one of those myopic Worldwide Church of God things, where one only looks out for those inside the group, and worse, actually believes that that is the way in which God intends for His people to behave!

As you must surely know, also, all Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to salvation. If that's something you can't accept, or wish were different, there's nothing I can do to help you. I dearly hope to God that you are correct and that those two families are second or third generation Presbyterians!

BB

Byker Bob said...

General apology or explanation:

I don't intend my remarks to come off as being smug or superior, and apologize if that is the way they seem. Smugness and superiority nearly always turn people off, and divert attention from the main points of discussion. As all might remember, I did make a special blog entry during my tenure last month to point out one atheist's seeming superiority complex. I recognized his writing style from his postings under a different name at Gavin's blog. Thankfully, he seems to have taken his attitude elsewhere.

All I'm saying, is that I was very depressed as a WCG member, somewhat less depressed as an atheist/agnostic, but now, with a completely new frame of reference, not depressed at all. This has also helped me with one of my life long character flaws, which is an inordinate desire to be liked by everybody.

Blessings are happening to a whole bunch of people, today and every day. I personally believe that if we are looking for them, we will find them. If we are looking for "other things", then that's what we'll find!

To Ralph: I did not find your demon remark to be blasphemous, because the God I serve takes evil, and turns it, subverting it to serve His purposes, and to accomplish good. The story of Job serves as a blueprint or archtype of this.

BB

Ralph said...

BB, I was joking about the demon thing. Now that I think about it, you never said I wasn't going to hell.

However, regarding the Arab types you saved from the snake, there is no reason not to believe that it was Allah using you to protect them!

You remind me of the sermon Ronald Dart used to deliver regarding Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation(Ron got so mad at me on his forum he used to call me 'dragon breath')

So, if there is one name in heaven and earth, etc, what happens to those who never got to hear about Jesus Christ?

That's still a great question for the Baptist types. I used to ask it all the time at Sunday School class, along with the question, "If God is all knowing, he already knows who will accept or reject him, so is salvation dependent on freewill choice?"

As to the first question, you must decide that either they go to hell because they never heard of Christ, and I have heard many say this is so, or you must decide that they are covered by grace if they never heard of Christ.

If they are covered by grace, it would be logical to tell them nothing at all, so salvation would be automatic.

In fact, it would be best not to say anything at all and destroy the bible, since everyone's ignorance would guarantee universal salvation.

Otherwise, you're spending a lot of money on missionaries and evangelists who give people the opportunity to go to hell.

Back when I was thirteen, my best friend used to ask questons just to see if I could answer them. One day he said, "If you could die so that everyone in hell could be saved, would you do it?"

I had recently been baptized in the Baptist church, so I answered "No. They had their chance while they were alive".

"So you're just covering your ass by saying ytou believe in Jesus?"

"Of course".

"But if Jesus died for you so you could go to heaven, shouldn't you be willing to die and go to hell so those others could be saved?"

"Okay, so I'm just covering my ass. I happen to like my ass an awful lot."

"And Jesus died so you could look out for number one".

"Okay smartass, would you do it?"

"Of course I would, because the whole point of this is to show that I am a better person than".

"Screw you".

"See?"

The pain of it was, he did beat me, at everything.

Purple Hymnal said...

"How about you prove it is not true."

You want me to prove that human awareness and personality have an organic basis? One word: fMRI.

Your next objection please?

Come on, Neo, cut the crap! Even Bob believes his human awareness and personality have an organic basis! BB just believes goddidit for the organic basis part. That argument of yours is such a non-starter, it's laughable to the point of being almost tragic.

Purple Hymnal said...

"Had you read further, you would have discovered that I deliberately put myself within striking distance of that snake to protect the Arab ladies and their children!"

That's right, Bob, because it's all about you, isn't it? You still have not (and will not, I suspect) address my core argument, namely that if you Christians want us to accept that your god is real for you, you must therefore accept that the adherents' of other religions' gods are real for them, too.

You just can't do it, can you? So much for tolerance, brotherly love, and equality.

Corky said...

PH, you have to remember that to Neo and BB unbelief means no morals. Unbelief = unhappiness and all kinds of otherworld nonsense.

To the Christian the Muslim is being arrogant because he believes that Mohammed is God's prophet who was predicted by Moses. On the other hand, they don't think it is arrogant for them to believe that Jesus is that prophet.

When BB said:

As you must surely know, also, all Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to salvation. If that's something you can't accept, or wish were different, there's nothing I can do to help you. I dearly hope to God that you are correct and that those two families are second or third generation Presbyterians!

He doesn't realize how presumptuous and arrogant that is and how much it tells about himself.

Ralph said...

It's like the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson said. Religion, getting baptized, is basically a rite of passage. People generally tend to go through the motions at about the age of puberty due to heightened social/sexual awareness.

I went through the process myself. Had a tremendouns emotional experience, and got baptized. Early on, I discovered that as a "born again" man, I had a better class of females to date.

Of course as I got older, I realized it was phony, and my relationship with women was based around faking it. They faked orgasms, I faked religion, and neither of us could tell the difference.

Byker Bob said...

Purple,

I would be the first to admit that I have great difficulty tracking your logic. But, please know this: I have never stated anywhere that other peoples' gods were not real **TO THEM**. I am certain that they are, in fact. But, that is hardly the criteria for salvation. That criteria is whether these folks believe in the real God, and in Jesus Christ as their savior. If I were to backpedal on this very core Christian belief, I would not be a sincere Christian. If I were to pretend that I actually believe that people will get into God's Kingdom through Buddha, or other of the so-called Ascended Masters, I would not be being true to my Christian beliefs. Jesus plainly states that He is the way. Now, would I like to see all of the non-Christian people I know or have ever met in God's Kingdom? You can bet your bottom dollar on that, and take it to the bank!

Also, when Christians share the personal experiences from their walk or journey, they generally do it to encourage others. We also retell the experiences of our friends from time to time. These experiences, of course, since they are personal, will seem to be all about us. But, in reality, they are also about Jesus Christ, who lives in and through us.

I sometimes wonder if it is even good for you and I to have these exchanges. They seem to make you more hostile towards God. You catch enough grief from the Armstrongite types already, and sometimes that makes me cringe. I don't want to add to that.

BB

Byker Bob said...

Corky,

I try to let the individual that you and Purple refer to as "Biblegod" determine what is real, what is arrogant, and what is presumptuous.

Also, where have I ever stated that non-believers have no morals? While my own morals were often lacking while I was agnostic, I have met any number of ethical and moral non-believers. What is true of both believers and non-believers, is that our own works do not save us.

Sometimes I wish people would try to get to know us better, rather than assuming the worst stereotypes and applying them to us. We have enough trouble dealing with our own bad acts without people projecting stereotypes on us.

BB

Neotherm said...

Purple Hymnal:

You wrote: "Your next objection please?"

I don't want to go on to the next one when you failed to address this one. I am not saying that the brain is uninvolved in thought. Thought is correlated with measurable brain activity.

What I am saying is that thought is not solely the product of a collection of chemical reactions in the brain. So the problem is one of causation. Is the sum total of what you are mentally just a large melange of molecular reactions. Or is there a spirit component to your mind?

I think that you believe the former. This would mean that your thoughts are really not determined by you but by chemistry. You can think only what you chemistry permits you to think. And what chemical reactions dominate your mind have been determined by natural selection. Your thought processes are not self-directed at all. So when I read your post, I am not communicating with a person but with unconstrained molecular reactions.

But if you are just a bunch of chemical reactions and you believe everyone else is, why do you care about anything? Why do you care about how Muslims are treated? One configuration of materialism is as good as any other.

-- Neo

Neotherm said...

Corky:

I do not believe that atheism may be equated to immorality. My atheist friend was a very moral person for the most part. He and I were eating lunch one day and he was deploring the way a coworker treated her children. I asked him why he could make a value judgement of her behavior when he did not even believe in good and evil.

The question remains. Why would an atheist decide to let behavior be governed by some code of ethics? One configuration of materialism is just as good as any other.

Evolution could have equipped you with ethics but that just means that there is no real substance to your morality. Your ethics are just a trick of natural selection. If you helped someone who had no ability to return the favor, that is not compassion but natural selection gone wrong.

-- Neo

Corky said...

Neotherm said...

My atheist friend was a very moral person for the most part. He and I were eating lunch one day and he was deploring the way a coworker treated her children. I asked him why he could make a value judgement of her behavior when he did not even believe in good and evil.

What makes you think atheists don't know good from bad? Of course atheists are able to make judgments about people's behavior, why wouldn't they be? Why do you think they can't? Do you think it is only you god bothered folks who can make judgments about people's behavior?

What in the world did people ever do before Jesus came along? Suspend judgment until he got here? What about people who weren't Jews in ancient times? Do you think they didn't have laws or something to make judgments about people's behavior?

Where is your MIND?

Corky said...

Neotherm said...
The question remains. Why would an atheist decide to let behavior be governed by some code of ethics? One configuration of materialism is just as good as any other.

How? In what way do you equate materialism with someone's ethics?

Neo, I am no more materialistic than you are - probably not as much. I bet you own more things and have more money than I have ever even dreamed of having.

Corky said...

Neotherm said...
Evolution could have equipped you with ethics but that just means that there is no real substance to your morality. Your ethics are just a trick of natural selection. If you helped someone who had no ability to return the favor, that is not compassion but natural selection gone wrong.

Does this personal attack actually deserve an answer? NO, it doesn't.

Retired Prof said...

Neo asks unbelievers: [In your meaningless universe] "why are you so spun up about the Bible, God, the Holy Spirit and the natural mind? Couldn't you just as valuably be off someplace scratching your anatomy?"

Nothing says we can't do both. In fact, I am scratching my anatomy right now. Tick bit me the other day.

Seriously, though, let me grope toward an answer by telling you about the weekend visit my wife and I had with our son and daughter-in-law. Our DIL, an unbeliever, found belief-unbelief tensions so fascinating that she took a degree in religious studies. On Sunday evening she and I got into a long discussion of the issues dealt with in this blog post. We both enjoyed the conversation immensely.

Considering the species we belong to, there is not much mystery about why. It is just something human beings do. We make myths, and we sit around and argue about them.

Coyotes howl. Dolphins leap. Cranes dance. Humans talk.

None of those other animals require notions of ultimate meaning from the metaphysical dimension to make their activities worthwhile. Some humans seem to, but even for those of us who don't, metaphysics can open up fascinating subjects to talk about and alleviate the mundane tedium of daily life. Who knows? Coyotes, dolphins, and cranes may have the same motivation and enjoy the same satisfaction.

When my wife and I got back home, my daughter-in-law had sent me a link to an article related to our discussion. It provides one framework for answers to the title question in Betty's post.

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2010/01/an-ill-wind-in.html

Betty Brogaard said...

Thank you, Retired Professor, for posting the website that your daughter-in-law forwarded to you. I found it quite interesting. I'll have to read it again to "digest" it more completely.

Ralph said...

Retired Prof, I looked through "Panda's thumb", but for some reason couldn't find the referenced article.

As to evolution providing us with ethics, of course it provides us with ethics based on a form of group selection.

Sociobiology, for example, shows that organisms from ants and bees upward show sacrificial behavior for the good of the group. That "ethical" behavior is connected to genetic kinship.

Ants and bees, for example, are highly sacrificial because one queen laid the eggs that produced them all, so that their genes are near identical. As a consequence, the loss of one is not significant.

When we approach the genetic scale of humans, there are random factors that tend to cause random concepts of morality and ethics, and we often associate "ethical" behavior with artificial group behavior, of which religion is an important factor.

For example, "born again" as "brothers and heirs with Christ". The general argument is not one of "spirit" but merely an artificial continuation of biology, as I pointed out earlier with the example of getting baptized at the age of puberty being little more than a rite of passage, tailored to fit a mechanical, not a spiritual, society.

I say mechanical, because mechanical forms of thought arose from ancient times, where a machine-like response in the face of danger had no value until men began to make war on each other.

Repeatability, mechanical response, sacrifice for the "common good", these are the "connector values" which are examined well by Eric Hoffer in "The True Believer".

With Gutenberg's printing press, the mechanical force of repeatability and standardization was applied to the processes of religious thought. The result was not peace, but its opposite. When the words of "the prince of peace" were taught by one common standard form applicable for interpretation by each individual, blood literally ran in the street.

The very process of mechanical repeatability that had formed empire from Egypt onward, when accelerated into a conscious technology, created its opposite effect: individuation, hatred, and self vindication.

War itself is little more than an acceleration of technology. Mechanical repeatability, when turned on itself, created the opposite effect.

Marshal McLuhan wrote that all wars are fought with the latest technology.

Slater wrote in "EarthWalk":

"Historians have long observed that war is the prime progenitor of technological development. From the materialization of the need to coerce, what else can come but discord and destruction?".

This need to coerce, with all the ethical collectivist decisions accompanying it, are the result of what Dawkins calls the genetic replcative algorithm, which seeks simply to replicate itself by controlling all aspects of its immediate environment. What we call the social "meme" is merely the extension of that algorithm.

Christianity, with its proselytizing zeal, is merely a manifestation of that urge, but we can see what Jesus said about it in Matthew 23:15.

Purple Hymnal said...

"If I were to pretend that I actually believe that people will get into God's Kingdom through Buddha, or other of the so-called Ascended Masters, I would not be being true to my Christian beliefs."

Funny, that. Some of the better-minded Quakers who identify as Christian, *do* think that though, Bob. Or do you think those Christians aren't "real" Christians either? How do you explain the various interfaith councils in the world? What about the UUs that Betty speaks of in her post? They seem to get along just fine, on the idea that everybody's god is real for them, if they believe in one, and that they'll all end up in the same place, they just have different names and concepts for it.

Just keep talking, you're doing an excellent job at proving the real "fruits" of "the Christian spirit". Corky is right, you just don't get how supercilious and holier-than-thou you're coming across as, right now. "Follow my logic", indeed. My logic is very simple: You are a prejudiced, bigoted, self-centred "holy fool".

Follow that logic, Bob, you don't need a map for it.

Retired Prof said...

The article is "An Ill Wind in Tortuca," by James Downard (6 Jan. 2010). It came up fine when I cut and pasted the link in my browser, but with the title and author you can check the Panda's Thumb archives too.

Purple Hymnal said...

"What I am saying is that thought is not solely the product of a collection of chemical reactions in the brain."

The link I provided disproves this. Ongoing studies of neurotheology disproves this. You simply cannot use this as an argument, Neo, it has been proven by science, beyond all shadow of doubt, that thought is SOLELY a collection of chemical reactions in the brain; if it were not, depression and anxiety would NOT be treatable by selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs); but they are, and people successfully employ this treatment of the mis-firing chemical reactions in their brains, which lead to depressive or anxious thoughts, and they may get better. By changing the chemical reactions.

It's a non-starter argument, Neo, and if you wish to remain blind to it and insist that your thoughts are somehow external to yourself, and not a part of the ongoing chemical synthesis that takes place behind your eyes a billion times a second, there's nothing I can do to convince you that they are not.

Is there any point to continuing this discussion? It seems we will just continue to be at cross-purposes.

Purple Hymnal said...

"The question remains. Why would an atheist decide to let behavior be governed by some code of ethics?"

Mirror neurons. Another one of those chemical reactions in the human brain that you refuse to accept.

Ralph said...

In addition to the chemical reactions of the brain, there are the conclusions emerging from the study of Artificial Intelligence and the brain. Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert, several years ago, described the brain s "composed of large numbers of relatively small distributive systems, arranged by embryology into a complex society that is controlled in part(but only in part) by serial, symbolic systems that are added later...the subsymbolic systems that do most of the work from underneath must, by their very character, block all the other parts of the brain from knowing much about how much they work."

Later writers such as Douglas Hofstadter have described this symbol system of the brain as "software" while the subsymbol system is "hardware".

Hofstadter points out that the "software" cannot alter the "hardware" since the software is dependent on the mechanical processes of the hardware in order to function.

The symbol system of the brain, the "software", can never be a complete description of the hardware. It can never fully understand itself by symbolic self representation. Software cannot reach down and alter the hardware, which, as luck would have it, is just what the apostle Paul says in Romans 7. While Neo and BB argue thast their minds have a spiritual component, Paul says the law itself is spiritual(verse 14) while the brain itself is carnal. Paul said that he, having supposedly the "mind of Christ", was carnal.

Verse 15: "I do not understand my own actions".

And finally verse 23: "But I see in my members another law(hardware) at war with the law of my mind(software) and making me captive to the law of sin which swells in my members".

Paul, it would seem, agrees with the basic definitions of artificial intelligence regarding the brain.

If Paul, therefore, declared himself "carnal" sold under sin, and then stated that the carnal mind is enmity against God, then, by referencing Romans 7, we see that Paul declared his own mind enmity against the laws of God, which he stated were spiritual.

To obey them would require a conscious ability(software) to control the natural urges of the genes, the synapses of the brain, and the complexity of that brain(hardware). Paul said he could not do it because he could not understand his own actions. he could not reference his own brain to adegree necessary for effective change.

Consequently, his only valid choice was to conclude himself "dead to the law".

Ralph said...

The "Ill Wind in Tortuca" was good, but merely verifies what I've been saying, and my response to Allen. We choose "for" or "against", and ex-WCG-ers have a tendency toward extremist conclusions, either completely "for" or completely "against". The Tortucan article points out quite effectively that the brain has different parts corresponding to each choice, so that prejudice would seem to be inbuilt and categorized based on what we have decided is wrong. The brain would evolutionarily base its survival decisions on those compartments which have selected "for" or "against" a body of thought summed up by labels.

Therefore, if the natural mind is enmity against God, and canot be subject to God, it will most likely begin to build a body of thought within each category that fits certain symbolic relations.

Those parts of the brain that are affected by the labels we choose show only an evolutionary response that develops as a result of survival tendencies, but tell us nothing about truth or falsehood of an actual God, since no such thinking is essentially necessary for survival choices.

The Tortuca article merely confirms what I've been saying. You can't get "there" from "here".

Neotherm said...

Purple Hymnal:

I do not believe that you are considering this issue with sufficient scope. This is a broad controversy and it is unreasonable to look at a single website that aligns with your personal viewpoint to settle the issue.

Even the example you cite, that of depression, is not determinative. It does not rule out a spirit component to the mind that interacts with the material brain. Does the physical status of the brain cause depression or does the psychological state of depression cause the brain to react?

Depression is frequently resolved through cognitive therapy rather than drug use. Talk therapy causes a change in mental state which in turn affects the brain's physical state.

If brain anatomy and physiology were the whole answer, chimpanzees would be wearing business suits and using cell phones.

But I agree with you, I think we have reached the point of diminishing returns in this debate.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Neo, your argument is useless. By using cognitive therapy, you are merely asserting that there exists within the mind a physical component consistent with its symbol making capacity to reach logical decisions, none of which will prove/disprove the existence of a spirit or spirituality.

All you're saying is that "If I think in a certain algorithmic fashion it will affect my moods to a degree".

But it still provwes nothing whatever in regard to the existence of God or any special relationship to God. If you did make such a proof, you would actually be disproving the basic truth stated by Paul in Romans 8 and 9.

You're in denial. But take comfort. So is PH.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I do not believe that you are considering this issue with sufficient scope."

And I believe yours is too narrow. We're going to have to part ways on this, Neo, your continual refutation of basic, provable, and long-since-proven biology is, as I have said repeatedly, a non-starter argument for me. And likely for most other reasonable people, as well. Believers among them.

Byker Bob said...

"Just keep talking, you're doing an excellent job at proving the real "fruits" of "the Christian spirit". Corky is right, you just don't get how supercilious and holier-than-thou you're coming across as, right now. "Follow my logic", indeed. My logic is very simple: You are a prejudiced, bigoted, self-centred "holy fool".


Purple, I wondered about my own value here at this site even before I agreed to be the guest editor in April. Believe me, I realize only too well that if any minds are going to be opened to Father God or Jesus Christ, there is no logic, example, argument, or testimony which I can present to make it happen. It's only something which God can do. Any of my own blessings, experiences, or further understanding that I feel like sharing can easily be negated by the home team via a few brief words created at the stroke of a keyboard.

I am thankful for one extraordinary blessing, and that is that upon my physical death, you do not get to be my judge!

BB

Ralph said...

BB, unfortunately, we've all become holier-than-thou. It's unavoidable after what we've been through, but as I keep saying, that's the whole purpose.

The very attemtp to find God must ultimately result in an increaskingly diverse, intense, and even hardened state as each individual chooses his/her view by which to live.

Can't be avoided.

Nobody here can really judge anybody, and I've issued a few "Help me father!" prayers in times of stress.

I remind you of that time after I had alrready won my court martial and got an apology from the marines, and I had polished my floor until it was the glossiest, almost crystal-like finish, and one of my platoon sergeants decided he wanted it.

As I was forced out and he moved in, I told him "Sergeant, you know I won that court martial against all odds. Somebody up there really likes me".

After he got settled in, a toad strangling rain set in that night, in Southern California, where it might rain twice a year!

The sergeant awoke to two inches of mud and silt all over his shiny new floor. I had been moved to the front of the building, where the rain had simply washed around and away from my room.

I had the pleaasure of walking by and watching him sweep that mess off the floor I had shined to such near perfection.

I said "I tried to tell you, Sargeant".

He grinned sheepishly and said "I'm startin' to believe you".

I can't tell you or anyone that was God getting even for me. It could be coincidence. My luck was better than his. But I sure got to screw with his head!

The Painful Truth said...

Neotherm said...
"Evolution could have equipped you with ethics but that just means that there is no real substance to your morality. Your ethics are just a trick of natural selection. If you helped someone who had no ability to return the favor, that is not compassion but natural selection gone wrong."

I believe it is in Romans 2 where the book says that some naturally follow the law.

If Corkey has good and decency in his heart, supports his family, helps others, who are you to criticize him? This is not natural selection as if the man is an animal. This is making a conscious choice as an intellectually discerning human being.

Compassion is a human trait. Human morals have to be intellectualized. What are morals? First define them then tell me were I can find the rule book.
If you use "War and Peace" as a guide can I find the answer there? Should I use a bible to find the answer? How about the Koran?

Your morals are decided as to your inner core being. For many of us unbelievers the code of morality is to do no harm to others, and contribute to society for the good of the collective. In fact we go further than some Christians. We participate in the process of politics by voting. We give voice in our desires to steer society into the direction we think it should go. What I have heard from some Christians is that this is Satan's world and we should have nothing to do with it. Well if that is the case they should kill themselves so that they can be circumcise the rest of the way.

Tell me the definitive answer to this question. I will ask this question in the typical Armstrong fashion.

"Just what do you mean by morals?"

Ralph said...

I should add that my "Help me father!" prayers were prefaced with "Oh, Shit!"

Betty Brogaard said...

Hey, Folks! Can we cut out the ugliness? I had no idea that my simple article would generate such hateful comments. It hurts me that such negative name-calling has resulted. My title question probably doesn't have a definitive answer - and we've gotten way off the subject anyway. Let's shift gears and back off. Can't we agree to disagree and still be friends?

Ralph said...

Betty, this is a regular sex orgy compared to what I went through, a regular hippie love fest.

Your questions do have an answer,though.

The Painful Truth said...

Ralph said...

"Betty, this is a regular sex orgy compared to what I went through, a regular hippie love fest."

As to my experience with the Marxist hippie chicks of my youth, they were too stoned to be much use to me. The commune never did manage to foster community loving. :-)

Ralph said...

Never found free love in the communes, though I did find some good discounts.

In jail we did have free clothes, free food, free TV, free sex...

Neotherm said...

PT:

"If Corkey has good and decency in his heart, supports his family, helps others, who are you to criticize him?"

I don't believe I have criticized Corky for this kind of behavior. I am simply questioning the origin of such altruism. I do not believe that atheism has a credible theory that would explain Corky's behavior.

"This is not natural selection as if the man is an animal. This is making a conscious choice as an intellectually discerning human being."

Here you have a problem. If you are an atheist and believe in evolution, then Corky is an animal. He is an advanced primate whose behavior patterns are a product of natural selection. His brain anatomically and physiologically is nealy identical to a chimpanzee's. His thought process may be easily discounted because they are only chemical reactions. He is just another biobot.

But do I believe this? No. I believe that Corky is a human being who bears the image of God. He has a moral sense because God gave him that. His thought processes are not simple reflections of chemical reactions but are self-directed because he has a mind that has a spiritual dimension. And his mind is so far in advance of a chimpanzee's there is no comparison.

What are morals?

They are principles by which we live. They are not the same for every person. They are not always good. My ancestors believed it was moral to sacrifice a young woman to ensure the fertility of the crops and did so up into the Nineteenth century.

(I mentioned this to an atheist one time and he told me that there was nothing wrong with this sacrifice because there was no right and wrong.)

The source of my morality is my understanding of the Bible. It says you shall not kill and you shall not steal and other outrageous and burdensome demands like that.

I don't know any Christians who do not vote. I know Armstrongites that do not. Christians run charities all over the world. Armstrongites don't. I think you may be confusing these two radically different movements.

I know many moral unbelievers and many amoral unbelievers. What they have in common is that their moral status is self-generated. It is higly mutable for that reason. It has no backbone.

-- Neo

Purple Hymnal said...

110 comments?! Betty, I think you're a hit! ;-) Even if it is only the same six of us, posting over and over and over and over again....LOL.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I am thankful for one extraordinary blessing, and that is that upon my physical death, you do not get to be my judge!"

By the very precepts of the judge you now bend your knee to, Bob, I don't think "he" is going to be too happy, either, with your clear disregard and open contempt for "his" kind of important Golden Rule...at least, your blindsided mis-interpretation of it.

You still haven't answered my question, about the Christians who believe that adherents of other religions are just as legitimate as their own religions. They do exist, Bob, but you're too self-centred and wrapped up in your own egotistical self-congratulation for creating your own god to serve you, that you can't see it.

You truly are living out the Gnostic parable of Samael. Very instructive, for those of us with the eyes to see.

None of this is judgement on my part, although you choose to misinterpret it as such; it is pity, that you have so closed yourself off, from the rest of humanity that you share this world with.

Purple Hymnal said...

"(I mentioned this to an atheist one time and he told me that there was nothing wrong with this sacrifice because there was no right and wrong.)"

You've been talking to the wrong atheists. He was an idiot. Or a sociopath....

Purple Hymnal said...

And now, for something completely different:

Read this. It's long, but it's worth it. The important details are: A) This person is still a member of the organization he is criticizing and B) This type of meta-criticism is actively welcomed and encouraged, by the group he is a member of. Some of whom identify as Christians.

Just thought I'd put that out there...happy reading!

Ralph said...

An interesting read, but I notice in the parable that Jesus recomended something that by OT law was considered an abomination: the collection of interest on money.

By law, therefore, the only possible use for such money was to put it in the bank and wait until the "king" returned for his dues.

Thise who did use the king's allotted money usefully actually aided the poor, helped the sick and the weak, gave to those who thirsted, etc.

Assuming that Jesus would never destroy the law, but fulfill every jot and tittle, interest collected on money could only be used for religious purposes to aid the poor, not to regulate the lives and fortunes of human beings in govertnment, as we have in the U.S. today.

Also, since Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, so that not a jot or tittle of the law would pass away, then "due process" of law would mean the proper judgement of all actions by the presumption of innocence with God's protection(Isaiah 54:17) and the right to face an accuser(Isaiah 50:8).

Assuming that the accuser in the parable was actually Jesus himself coming to claim his own,the money claimed with interst would belong only to him, and not to bankers. It could not be spent except in the use of feeding the poor, visiting the fatherless and widows, etc. That, in fact, was the sign of righteousness that Jesus gave later in the parable.

The money that was properly used yielded goodness and love, aid for the poor, not the accumulation of wealth to the individuals allotted the talents.

Ralph said...

Betty, your first paragaph is interesting. You say that people are looking for a religion without authority and without condemnation of any type. But there is no such religion.

Actually...the principle focus of Israel was law. While the law as practiced by Israel included both condemnation and judgement, along with vengeance, it also provided that no person could be convicted for any offense without the proven testimony of at least two witnesses(Deut. 19:15).

That is, the people themselves had to judge and condemn, but they could not do it except by the unbiased proof of at least two witnesses with incontrovertible testimony.

"Thou shalt not folow after a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgement(Ex 23:2)".

No "sin" proclaimed by majority rule.

"You shall not wrest the judgement of the poor in his cause(verse 6)"

"...you shall not oppress a stranger..."(verse 9)

In any trespass, disputed by two or more people, if the matter was brought legally before the judge, the loser paid double the value, which sought to minimize the necessity of public judging and encouraged settlement between the disputants. This was also urged by jesus in Matt 5:25, and Matthew 18:15-18.

"You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"(Lev.19:18)

"You shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God"(Lev 24:22)

That scripture would have interesting applications to the 14th amendment.

The protections of Deut 19:15, 19:19, Isa.50:8, and 54:17, ensure the presumed innocence of the individual until proven guilty by due process of legal examination, actual evidence provided and proven.

So what does this do to Neo's statement about knowledge coming only from God but not shown to the world?

It would have to mean that it is not permitted as evidence of conviction by law. If there are not at least two witnesses to verify, the law has no authority to judge, and it will have no social effect regarding the behavior or judgement of others.

That is, christianity can exercise no legal authority, because it can provide no proven testimony of the truth of its statements. By virtue of Ex 23:2, above, there can be no collective opinion to judge or condemn any person. Due process of law would deny it.

By Paul's teaching, since Jesus paid the full penalty of the law, there can be no vengeance practiced in any form by a professing christian, since the very belief of the christian demands mercy and not condemnation. If a sin is confessed, whether freely or under oath, if it has harmed no other person, it must be forgiven, not punished. The law of itself has no such authority.

Neotherm said...

"You've been talking to the wrong atheists. He was an idiot. Or a sociopath...."

No, to the contrary. He was very bright and had arrived at his atheism through careful consideration over years of time. He argued the atheist viewpoint extremely effectively. And I believe he understood the implications of atheism thoroughly in this case.

He understood that if there is no moralising God, there is no right and wrong. There is only natural selection. And under the "value system" based on natural selection, there are things conducive to survival and things that are not conducive to survival. There is then no a priori basis for any human concept of right and wrong.

So my ancestors believed it was right to sacrifice a human to ensure a good crop. (Richard Dawkins could concoct a reason for us as to why this ensured survival.) But my atheist friend would disagree. He would say that it was not right or wrong because these ideas are determined by humans which is to say they do not exist in the abstract or as absolutes.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Neo, would your atheist friend sacrifice someone for any purpose? If he did would declare that it was not morally wrong?

Ancient principles of "nature and nature's laws" came from propositions developed by Aristotle, among others. Sacrifice, torture, mutilation, all these were permissible until a certain point in time, after which it was realized that any individual had the right to protect him/her self in defense of his/her life, liberty, or property.

IOW, this awareness evolved by human intelligence, and can be traced exclusively through the reasoning of human intelligence, and does not require a God for explanation.

By the late 1600s, it was regarded by common law that to force a man to incriminate himself was a form of torture.

It can be argued from a biblical point of view that in being stopped from sacrificing Isaac, God was telling Abraham that human sacrifice was not ever to be permitted. But that is merely an argument based on something that may have never happened, based on conclusions developed after humans developed greater awareness.

It seems to me that sacrifice of humans was developed as a result of seeking to please higher powers which included the combination of church and state, but the realization that a person could not be sacrificed or tortured comes from reasoning about the value of human life.

In short, these moral conclusions are traceable to the power of human reason, not to the existence of any God.

Corky said...

The source of my morality is my understanding of the Bible. It says you shall not kill and you shall not steal and other outrageous and burdensome demands like that.

What do you do about the majority of the Bible that says to slay the Midianites, slay the Amalekites, slay, slay, slay? Oh, and kill their animals too. And, the pregnant women? Rip their belly open and kill the fetus. Oh, and don't forget to take a spoil, especially the young virgin girls, for youself.

Moral my ass!

Corky said...

Betty Brogaard said...
Hey, Folks! Can we cut out the ugliness? . . . Can't we agree to disagree and still be friends?

Of course we can, but I think both sides like to argue their point of view a lot more than to be cuddly.

Folks who no longer believe in the puppet master in the sky above take offense from the folks that want to impose that belief on us again.

The believers take offense because we unbelievers are "wretched, blind and naked" (oh, and stupid) and we don't fall in line and kiss their God's butt.

Plus, they would also expect us to thank them profusely for "saving" us and fall down and kiss their feet and become a follower. It's not going to happen. We (speaking for myself) got wise to that game a long time ago.

Thanks Betty, for posting on this blog. I think that I am the only one who posted a list of "why do you not believe". I didn't see anyone post a list of "Why do I believe"s. I reckon they don't have any reasons that have evidence that they can list.

Either one believes because of no evidence or one doesn't believe because of evidence.

Byker Bob said...

Purple,

The Christians who believe that adherents to non-Christian religions will somehow enter the Kingdom have nothing to do with me or my ego. Their belief is counter to what Jesus Himself taught, as recorded in our Holy Bible, #1 Best Seller of all time. I don't get a vote on this. I only get to state whether I believe that what is written as a cautionary message in our Bible is true. And, I mean no offense by this, but I choose to believe Jesus Christ, rather than you or your friends who believe themselves to be more tolerant than God.

Years ago, I used to wonder why people who initiated an eternal, personal relationship with Jesus Christ seemed to become cloistered, going off and sticking with their own little groups. I think I'm beginning to understand why this is true, though. Jesus living in us gives us such a positive outlook on life, and with daily reinforcement. I've shared my son's story, and other little anecdotes such as my experience with the snake with quite a number of people. My Christian brethren get a big smile on their faces, and go off praising God, and feeling uplifted, as do I when they share some of the experiences from their own adventure with God.

We love that positivism. It's one of the perks which God brings to us. I've learned only too well that one must be very careful in sharing his blessings, because there are some people who will deliberately trash them to support their own particular agendas. I'd like to be able to share with you that I can remain strong in the face of such drubbing, and to continue to try to be the best kind of friend to those people, but I must tell you the truth. It sometimes diminishes and drains me. Therefore, I, like many other followers of Jesus Christ, must exercise discernment regarding who I spend my time with, and how much time I'm willing to expend with them.

It is very edifying and supportive of my relationship with God to drink in of the positivism which He instills in His peoples' lives and personalities! Having a wonderful time! Wish you were here!

BB

Ralph said...

Corky, I thought I stated that I believe precisely because there is no evidence. My reasons are quite basic
1.If there was a God who wished for our freedom, it would be self defeating to make strict, programmatic rules and come down to kick our ass every time we fell short
2.Related to the first, if there is a God who is all knowing, there is no reason why he/she/it/they would reveal such knowledge to humans, since humans like to kick other people's asses in God's name
3.Because there is not sufficient evidence to prove there is/is not a God, it is quite useful to make people in power think there is a God for:
(a)They might not fear an actual God, but they might get a bit uneasy about a growing group who thinks they're pissing God off(Jesus used this on the Pharisees a lot)
(b)God is a useful power to stand as vindicator for the accused, as I pointed out in Isaiah 50:8 and 54:17, along with various laws that do tend to support individual freedom.

At present, wit our legal systems recognizing the sovereignty of God in all 50 states, it's good to be able to rise above the mob and say "God said I don't have to do this, so kiss my ass!"

Either the government recognizes law, or it recognizes guns. I like guns as well as law, but law is a lot easier.

For legal purposes, it doesn't really matter which God, since the courts will accept an oath on any holy book you wish(the oath merely allows them to screw you in God's name, like He's a cosmic peeping Tom), so you can refuse to swear or affirm and force them to actually obey their own damn laws.

And the final reason(what number was I on?): Since we already know from Paul's statements in Romans 8 and 9, and Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:23, that there is no reason to follow any religion or group of men, I can challenge both church and state, making a belief in God both pragmatic and quite useful for reasons of personal freedom.

Ralph said...

BB, if you do believe ytour bible, you would have to realize that it is impossible for any person to decide who is in the kingdom and who is not.

Byker Bob said...

Ralph, I agree with you that it is impossible for us, as humans, to tell who is going to make it into the kingdom, and who is not. In fact, it would be presumptuous for us to even try. But, the basic guideline provided, is that Jesus is the only way. That should be a huge clue to us all.

There are so many things which we do not know. Some have postulated that people will be given an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ on judgment day. The Mormons actually research geneologies, going back in some cases for thousands of years, and get baptized on behalf of dead people.
I don't know whether God will accept baptisms by proxy. We only know that God is a loving God, the good shepherd who is not willing for any of His sheep to be lost.

Whatever the final judgment or disposition of Buddhists, tribal worshippers, Wiccans, or Moslems, the Bible tells us that people are saved only through and by Jesus Christ. Frankly, I hope salvation ends up being universal. It is not arrogant, as some have alleged, to take God at His word on this that salvation is only possible through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of His Son, Yeshua, or Jesus Christ. We may lack the final specifics, and practical application but will know these soon enough.

BB

Ralph said...

BB, that is the point I made earlier. There are millions who never heard of Jesus Christ. Either they are covered by grace or they go to hell. If covered by grace, the best thing we can do is destroy the bible altogether and all of us get saved by grace.

If they go to hell, then they would have to be predestined by the very circumstances of their birth to go to hell.

Even HWA had that one figured out with two resurrections, although he added a third for people like me who saw through his crap.

Very simple: one group selected by God for his own purposes and reasons, trained by his own standardfs. foreknown, predestined, called of the same promise as Isaac, born just as Isaac was born(which Neo denies outright in rejection of plain statements). The rest get raised a thousand years or so later, and are taught by the elect dudes.

Simple as possible. No human works to qualify them for this, no human organizations, none of that, and we have Paul's teachings in Romans 11:32. He deliberatley allowed unbelief so that all would be saved.

There, all mysteries solved. Be good to others, visit the fatherless and widow in affliction, and tell the world governments and religions to kiss your ass. Nothing simpler.

Now, if I'm wrong, I had the fun of telling churches and governments to kiss my ass and living free.

The Painful Truth said...

Ralph said...
"There are millions who never heard of Jesus Christ. Either they are covered by grace or they go to hell. If covered by grace, the best thing we can do is destroy the bible altogether and all of us get saved by grace."

That is what I cannot accept. All those folks that never heard a certain name muttered cannot have salvation. Ridiculous if not insane. And how about those who are atheists who visit the widow, feed the poor donate money to help make the world just a tad bit better? Would the god of the bible or any other holy book author find this an equitable solution in dividing the goats from the sheeple? I think not.

If there is some higher power in the universe than a holy book god, what ever this power may be, it cannot even be on par with the writings of man. The concept of a hell or eternal death is one of the things in life that tells me the bible is a book of bullshit.

What ever this higher power is, I am sure it would disavow any relationship with the god of all those holy books. If there is a god, we are that god.

Neotherm said...

Next topic.

Ralph said...

Legal historian Leonard Levy, obviously Jewish, tells us that the concept against double jeopardy comes from Nahum 1:9:

"He will make an utter end. Affliction shall not rise up a second time".

Also, verse 12, which is included in the right against double jeopardy: "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more".

Compared to that, of course, we have Romans 6:23. The wages of sin is death. IOW, you die. One "affliction", one punishment. You sin, you die. It is appointed all men once to die. After that, the judgement.

So, if the penalty of sin is death, and there is only one punishment, then quite obviously the "judgement" is a period of arbitration and training, not condemnation. Certainly consistent with two resurrections.

So, atheists, believers, crazy ex-marines like me, we all die. No matter what we do, we die. Full penalty, we die.

Now, either we are resurrected, or we're not. But no matter how we wish to believe, WE WILL DIE.

Whethwer you look at it biblically or atheistically, we die. If we never heard of Jesus Christ, we still die. Get my point?

Therefore, we stand to gain nothing whatever by enslaving ourselves in fear to some bullshit doctrine of eternal hell, because for all any of us know, WE STILL DIE, period.

1. Since there is nothing physically to be gained by enslaving ourselves to something that cannot be proved
2.Since no natural mind can be subject to God, and every attemnpt to obey God merely results in over 38,000 versions of the christian God, not to me ntion the others, and
3. Since there is no decision whatever we can make that will show any special relationship to a God whose existence we canot prove, and,
4.Since Jesus himself said it was pointless to follow such phallic heads(I'm thinking of the Pope's cap), we must be free.

Whether ytou're atheist and do good works, or whether you're christian and do the same works, or whether you're Wiccan and do those same works, it don't matter, 'cause you're gonna fuckin' die.

So, seein' as how God already knows who his children are, and seein' as how there is no possible choice we can make to become one of those children, we can do one of two basic things:
1.We can says "nothing to be gained, so I'm gonna be an asshole and hate, harm, curse, rape, or whatever
2.Since there's nothining to be gained, I will stilllive as though I were a decent moral human being, without need of rewards, resurrection, rulership, or any kind of hope beyond this life.

That is, you will do the very best you can, to the very best of your ability, knowing you dso it, not because of hell, or because even of heaven, but because you have decided to do it.

If there is a God, I'm bettin' the farm that second type is who he'll choose. If there is no God, well, you sorta end up with Pascal's wager, only you don;t have to follow no religions, serve no damn governments, or enslave yourself to any other human being.

You just do the right thing, ad, come judgement, you look God straight in the eye, and say, "I did the best damn thing I knew how to do, and if you wanted better, you should have told me. If that ain't good enough, then you ain't good enough for me".

Allen C. Dexter said...

Ralph said:

"If there is a God, I'm bettin' the farm that second type is who he'll choose. If there is no God, well, you sorta end up with Pascal's wager, only you don;t have to follow no religions, serve no damn governments, or enslave yourself to any other human being.

You just do the right thing, ad, come judgement, you look God straight in the eye, and say, "I did the best damn thing I knew how to do, and if you wanted better, you should have told me. If that ain't good enough, then you ain't good enough for me"."

Now, there's a statement I can wholeheartedly agree with.

Purple Hymnal said...

"He understood that if there is no moralising God, there is no right and wrong."

Again, that's not "understanding", that is an apologetic for sociopathy. Please do not infer blanket attitudes to all atheists by this one person you spoke with, who identified as one, Neo; I certainly don't agree, and I am an atheist.

But then, it all leads back to the thought processes being internal to the chemical reactions in the human brain. You still refuse to accept that, so the argument that morality is somehow outside of our skulls (You didn't read the link I posted on mirror neurons, clearly.), you will refuse to accept that people can be "good without God".

That's fine. Let's agree to disagree and move on. Neither of us is going to convince the other.

Purple Hymnal said...

"Their belief is counter to what Jesus Himself taught, as recorded in our Holy Bible, #1 Best Seller of all time."

Funny, Bob, those Christians I directed you towards would completely disagree. But thanks for addressing my point, and proving to us you've fallen in with a Christer-cult that's worse than the church was.

Of course, you're free to disagree with me on that, and I'm sure you will.

Purple Hymnal said...

"What ever this higher power is, I am sure it would disavow any relationship with the god of all those holy books. If there is a god, we are that god."

Amen! ;)

Purple Hymnal said...

"Next topic."

Pity.

whatmeworry said...

Impatience. Nobody can just wait and see. But then there wouldn't be places like this where people can come and try to figure out if there is or is not a God, and what He will or will not do. It's all theoretical, all open to opinion. I have a funny feeling we will ALL be surprized in the end. After all, we are just a little pile of carbon, one of humanities billions. Since I do believe in God, I can imagine Him sighing at our arrogant self importance. No wonder we're going to hell in a handbasket.

Byker Bob said...

Purple,

Stereotyping, names, and insinuations of diminished mentality really don't bother me. I learned to live with those things back when we were all atheists and agnostics, and arguing politics on the original PT Forum.

BB

Purple Hymnal said...

"Stereotyping, names, and insinuations of diminished mentality really don't bother me."

And, as usual, you're neatly evading my point, which is that there ARE Christians on this earth who DO believe that adherents of other religions have faith that is just as valid as theirs; and the fact that your new "mega-church" teaches you otherwise (that there is a "special chosen elect" if you will), is something that should have raised MANY red flags for you, when it came up.

That is exactly what the church used to teach, whether you want to admit that, or not. And it is a position that is growing in unpopularity, amongst Christians who really do know the meaning of "brotherly love", and who do, demonstrably, live out the Golden Rule, in their lives, and in their interactions with non-Christians of every persuasion.

Ralph said...

The beliefs of adherents of all religions are equally valid, which is to say, they are not valid at all from a truth standpoint.

The reason being again that in any set of conjoined propositions, if one proposition is false, the entire set is false.

Since it is already demonstrated that any attempt to define truth in one package results in infinity of undecidable propositions, it is impossible fro any religion dealing with infinite possibilities to truthfully state their own religion as representative of God.

So Purple, your statement that there ain;t no such animal as THE truth is correct as far as any system of human knowledge can predict, but human knowledge is proven to be both incomplete and inconsistent.

So your statement does come full circle. As you point out, since there is no "ultimate truth", there are no valid religions that can claim to represent truth.

If there is a "special chosen elect", the decision process itself would be beyond any human capacity, and therefore Paul is correct in his statements again.

Byker Bob said...

Aggie,

No matter what I say, you're going to disagree with me simply because you are blind with hatred of Christians who believe in the Bible. You don't seem to have a problem with the Christians who water it down.

I thought of posting the phone numbers and email addresses of some very key people in my life, but that would launch Little Miss Accuser of the Brethren into yet more tirades. I could list the East Indian millionaire for whom I worked for over twenty years at two different companies. Or my ex-wives and girlfriends, 2 of whom are Mexican-American, 2 of whom are South American, yet another is Mexican-Russian, another Cuban, one African American, etc.

And, then, there are some of my bowling teammates of seasons past, who are African American.

We all have ways of covering up the weirdness and stupid personality things that the WCG left us with. I deliberately made close friends in the various minority communities, because cultural differences tend to mask personal weirdness.

By the way, there is nothing you could possibly say that's bad enough to make me stop praying for you every day!

BB

Purple Hymnal said...

"you're going to disagree with me simply because you are blind with hatred of Christians who believe in the Bible."

Charming. You've managed to completely evade the direct question, and insult me at the same time. Instructive of the Christian mindset, at least.

I am not "blind with hatred", Bob, I think you're projecting that particular accusation from a more internal source....

Byker Bob said...

Well, Jesus didn't answer taunting, stupid questions either.
The rules of this forum don't require that we respond to one another's inquisitions. And, BTW, you've made it very clear throughout the past how you feel about the Bible which you call fables and myths, God whom you call "Biblegod", our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ whom you call "the godman" or "Mithra", Christians who will not water down what they read in their own Bibles, and just about everything else that is generally considered sacred. That tells me all I need to know about your current spiritual condition, and whether or not I should take anything you say seriously. I don't hate you either. Probably both of us need a bit more work done on us.

But, smile! Jesus actually does love you, and so do I. Surely, you do remember what He said about the many who cry "Lord, Lord.", don't you? I kinda think He might have been referring to CINOs (Christians in name only) who water down Biblical principles with pagan practices, thus appearing to be more moderate, and "more righteous" than God!

BB

Purple Hymnal said...

"BTW, you've made it very clear throughout the past how you feel about the Bible which you call fables and myths, God whom you call "Biblegod", our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ whom you call "the godman" or "Mithra""

I might have used the term "dying-rising-godman", but never have I invoked Mithra, that's Corky's holy grail. I'm more partial to the thesis that the christological figure was lifted whole cloth from the Syro-Egyptian creation myths of Horus-Isis-Osiris (The original trinity in Middle Eastern philosophy.), and you are confusing the derision of other other atheists for the allegories of the Christian canon, for my own perspective, which is slightly more nuanced.

I don't take the Christian canon at face value. Nor do I constrain my reading/study to the Christian canon, as there is a much wider field of philosophy than the canonical texts one may wish to draw from.

The typical fundamentalist atheist may say, "They're all myths! Pah, let's abolish them all!" I do feel this way, sometimes, and I certainly felt that very strongly in the past.

There is a fundamental difference between an antiquated, obsolete system of mythology, and a series of very old allegories, which may or may not be useful, down to this very day.

Do I believe the Christian canonical texts, as well as the non-canonical texts that were in widespread used in the first, and second centuries Common Era, were mythologies? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that makes those texts of any less value, when meditating on the allegories they contain?

Not in my experience, no.

As I have often said, the "reality" of the myths, or otherwise, is not a deal-breaker for me; it is what people choose to do with those allegories (whether they believe them/live by their principles or not) that speak the loudest to me ("By their fruits"), and which I utilize to ponder my own internal mental workings.

I hope I have sufficiently clarified my position on this.