View Single Post
Old 04-17-2008, 02:08 AM   #52
Jvstice
Junior Member
 
Jvstice's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 382
Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I understand the argument that the nature of god is unknowable. What I don't understand are the subsequent arguments that presume to know god's nature (i.e. that he is in omnibenevolent in one camp and not in another, etc). Again, it seems like people wanting to have it both ways and doing so at the expense of intellectual honesty.
I agree that people doing that isn't intellectually honest. I think it's entirely possible for a person's faith to either be a crutch or something that holds you back from being all you can, just as I also think it can be a life jacket to keep a person from drowning. Faith that has as it's root living in denial that bad things happen to good people and vice versa, falls more into the area that definitely keeps people from their best, because they don't deal with the world the way events really happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
No doubt. Like any subject, there isn't likely to be consensus amongst the experts. I guess my question is: why is a petty god that plays favorites worthy of our worship? I can only assume that theologians and apologists have run into the same problem, hence why so many of them tend toward the omnibenevolence track that you have rightly cast aside.
As to the second part of that...

The thing to remember in Christianity, and I assume every other religion (and probably other philosophical institutions as well) is that in modern times, almost every church that exists was founded by people that were offended at the excesses of a prior group. They see something that is either morally wrong, or intellectually dishonest or in some other way doesn't meet the need of a large part of the congregation, and go out to create an organization where the same thing could never happen again, probably overstating things at least somewhat in the opposite direction.

Other than Catholicism, much of protestant theology has hinged on the question of whether God saves people from their sins, or people working in partnership with God save themselves.

Calvinist groups (Presbyterians, Reformed, and Puritans) came into existence because they were concerned that God get credit for salvation, and that nobody could take credit for saving themselves.

Armenian theology and groups were concerned that God not take the blame for bad stuff that happens or that God is omnipotent, but people go to hell anyway. The actual creator of the ideas freely admitted borrowing ideas from paganism and marrying them to Christianity (look up semi-pelagianism for the full arguement if you're interested). Methodists, Holiness churches, Churches of God, Wessleyans, Salvation Army, and many flavors of pentacostals and non denominational churches take their theology from this. Basically the idea is that while people are corrupt, they have just enough goodness to cry out to God. In their view, salvation is seen like a loaded gun, but you're responsible for pointing it at your head and pulling the trigger. The Holy Spirit is the gun powder that makes it happen.

Baptists refused to commit to either side in the debate, because they didn't want to embrace pagan theology, but didn't want to say there was no free will either. Instead they hedge saying that God knows whos getting saved, but doesn't specifically choose people to choose Him. They overlook the logical trap that for an omnipotent and omniescient being, which they admit that God is, to know the future would be to control the future to the extent that the future already exists.

The Catholic church sees themselves as above the fray and this just being infighting between protestant groups, and has avoided weighing in on the issue, but their theology tends to be based on the assumption that human beings are a tabula rasa, capable of being raised towards good or evil, so I imagine there's a good deal of variation within the church in assuming which way God would lean.

Add to that the demographic shifts within Christianity and that explains a lot of the uncritical acceptance of omnibenevolence. Baptists and Armenian theolgical positions both state that God wants to save everyone. Since Catholics don't universally hold an idea of original sin as such have tended to be more open towards omnibenevolence as they've tried to be more ecumenical.

God is worthy of my worship for saving my life and soul, pulling me through my health problems, and sending the people into my life whom I know and love. I really can't speak for anyone else other than to say that God has been benevolent to me, all in all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I still don't understand the thinking that congratulates accepting conclusions without evidence or in the face of contradictory evidence. *shrugs*
There is evidence against the hyper literalism that fundamentalist groups practice. There really isn't for points of view that see the purpose of the bible as something other than a natural history book or cook book on how to create a world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
If I were to say that my life has been enriched by my faith in invisible pink unicorns, I doubt anyone would take me seriously. However if change the subject of that sentence to god, then suddenly you can get a doctorate degree in the subject from some accredited colleges and universities.
Really, so there's a religion that claims that?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I am afraid that doesn't answer my question. The statement was "I live my life as though [the bible] was the word of god". You seem to concede that the original content of the bible is unknown and raised the point yourself that the document we have today has been subject to numerous translations, scribal errors, politically-motivated revisions, etc. I'm not sure what happens inside the black box that allows one to put questionable material in one end and get "the word of god" out of the other.
Well you ask what standard I use...

The books of the bible arent one source, but many sources that span over millenia, really touching on multiple cultures as well. In spite of the diversity of the authors, there is a remarkable cohesiveness. I know. Not flawless, but you do have to look at the contradictions and go with the preponderance.

Generally I don't believe things unless I see them in multiple sources, and unless I know that it was a priority to Jesus to put them into practice. Leviticus and Deuteronomy both talk about not believing things from just one source, sort of a lesser scientific method applied to religion, if you will.

Example:
So you see Paul condemning women preachers and says "he wants" them to be silent in 1 of the Epistles attributed to him. In all of this, there's no mention of what God wants, but Paul specifically saying that he wants women to be quiet. On the other hand, you see him greeting women in prominent positions within the church in his letters as though they were equals. Greeting women as equals was not the practice of either the hebrew or greek culture he came from. Both viewed women as property. Nor was it the practice of the Romans, which he was a Roman citizen. Again, they legally saw women as property.

Where did this behavior come from? It had to be a newly accepted practice in some christian circles for it to be done at all. To that you add Paul's saying that in Christ's fellowship "there is neither Jew, nor greek, male nor female, slave nor free..." Also that most of Jesus' followers were women. What do you really think was the message to take from a prohibition that's made in 1 book, but said is irrelevant another, and shown to be irrelevant in a third as well as the gospels? I'd go with the greater number of sources as well as Jesus' actions in what he supported in trying to derive a moral principle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
So what criteria are those major groups using to deterimine those universals? Both the bible and the quran tell us to kill people that from opposing faiths. Both the bible and the quran tell us to be accepting of people different than us. Somehow most of us manage to determine that one of these messages is "better" than the other, even though the source for both message is the same. Clearly then we aren't using that source as a criteria for making that decision. Do you see my point?
I do, and I don't necessarily see that as the horrible thing you seem to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
So why bother? If we are capable of making moral judgements independent of our holy texts, then why not just make moral judgements without our holy texts? You can't argue that you might miss something important because you've clearly already accepted that ignoring certain parts is okay. You're already taking the risk. Once again it comes back to intellectual honesty.
Informed judgements after being aware of all your options are better than ones made in ignorance, so knowing something of context of other decisions made in other cultures isn't wasted time or effort, whether you believe the same or not. Additionally, learning some of the context and reasons under which others acted can broaden your options instead of narrowing them as you seem to think can only come from religion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
You have already indicated that you conclusions about god are pretty much independently derived. You don't have the catholic version of god per se, nor do you have the baptist version or the mormon version, etc.
Independently implemented, but that doesn't mean that I don't owe a bit of debt to thinkers and theologians who came before. I do borrow extensively from the thoughts of others to make more informed choices, I'm just not bound by their conclusions. I weigh the evidence myself after looking at the issues involved, and why they say what they think, and if the reasons behind the reasons they give are compelling sometimes I discard old conclusions in light of new evidence. Why's that so hard to understand happening in matters of faith?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
So what you have is some custom idea of god that you've developed yourself. So let's be honest here and acknowledge that the ideals you have set forth for yourself bring increased meaning to your life, not "god". In this respect my friend, you are absolutely no different than any athiest I have ever met, save the fact you still feel the need to believe in some external referee. The only difference between you, me, and a devout catholic is that the catholic has accepted a pre-packaged set of beliefs produced by someone else, you've created your own and decided to call it "god" and I've created my own without any such labels.
As to the part about the values I select and not God bringing meaning to my life, I'd disagree with. God brings meaning to my life. As do the values I live by. Each brings something irreplacable. And there is some correlation that one influences the other, but I'll admit that they're not one and the same if that's what you were looking for.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Valid points about humility aside, I still argue that religion is a fundamentally "all or nothing" proposition.
depends in what sense you mean that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I disagree. You might not agree with literalists, but you can't say that they aren't literal.
I can't say they aren't literal about certain things that's true. I can't say they aren't literal about how to interpret certain things described in the bible in story form. I can't say they aren't literal in they see a law, they implement the do's and don'ts without regard for context it was given in, or the ends it was trying to achieve. I can say that they aren't literal in adopting the priorities that Jesus said were important to adopt, because most people that describe themselves as literalists that I've seen have focused on things that he actually said should not be priorities.

Also see my earlier mention of semi pelagianism. A number of groups who are literalist about biblical events have grafted on semi-pelagianism theology and assumptions of morality anyway, so yeah in a way, you're right. In another you're not at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Apologies if I inadvertently offered an offense. I did not mean "dishonest" in the "liar liar pants on fire"/"deceitful slouch" sense. Rather, I sought to point out that one has to be honest with one's self to understand my points. Unfortunately, so long as one maintains "faith" such honesty isn't possible, as "faith" is the willfull act of lying to one's self.
You're certainly welcome to your opinion, but you don't know me nearly as well as you think if that's your opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I still think you've missed the point of his video. And dispite your protests, I still argue that his points apply to you as well
Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I could spend the rest of the day quoting chapter and verse, however I'll just provide the one example for now: Deuteronomy and Leviticus are a great resource for those wanting to learn more about god's ground rules for dealing with people with different beliefs.
I still say that a different covenant for a different people. And I wouldnt say that this is a total break from history for me to take this view. But you see depicted in the old testament a number of practices that God says will interfere with a relationship with Him. He then suggests punishments to put in place on the assumption that it's a national theocracy.

By the time of the New Testament, God was done with blessing only one nation, and used the nation he'd created to bless the rest of the world. The time of national theocracy was done. The time of focusing on legislation was done. Jesus stressed things to implement in one's own life and said not to be concerned with what your neighbor is doing other than in a compassionate way. A lot of people who claim to follow him don't adopt the priorities he said were important, instead focusing on making sure all the minutae throughout all the Bible are observed, deemphasizing Jesus's words, mission, and example to go with points of view he specifically dispelled.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Same as above; there are too many to list here, but here's my favorite:
The matthew quote. I guess you could argue that Christians being belligerant towards non-Christians is a good thing based on this, and I'm sure that you can dig up some people that do. It could also be a reference to other's reactions to not hearing something they don't want to, which is my personal belief.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I'm afraid this doesn't answer the question. If the NT is the "ground rules" then what is the OT? I tried to anticipate your response by tacking on that 2nd question about the parts of NT that support the OT, however you seemed to ignore that part and argue that the NT was a break with the past anyway
Context for understanding how the original hearers would take things in large part. Additionally examples of how God fights for those whom he's covenanted to love, and does play favorites.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Unfortunately the only response I can think to craft is one that you quoted here. I think my previous argument still applies.
I don't know what to say to that other than I don't see how.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I quoted the applicable passage earlier. Yes, it is from the OT. No, that does not make a difference.
hopefully i answered that to your satisfaction this time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
The point I raised, but unfortunately isn't acknowledged here, is that their choice to do so stems from their interpretation.

You interpret. They interpret. If you don't like their interpretation, that's fine, but you don't get to cry foul because they are guilty of interpretting
There's some truth to that to a point. But then the word Christian literally means follower of Christ. Not even being interested in trying to find the same priorities as he held is something different.

Back when I was in college, I've gone to a church before where the preacher literally both preached and asked congregation members to give sermons for four consecutive weeks on tithing to their church. That church practically turned it into it's own sacrament.

Jesus mentioned tithing once during his ministry. He was asked if it was right to tithe to his church by a man who wasn't even willing to see that his parents had food to put on the table after they were too old and infirm to do it for themselves and looking for an excuse to ditch them and still feel good about himself. Jesus responded that his first concern should have been mercy, but that tithing to his place of worship was a good secondary consideration after the fact.

Now if you look at the old testament, you run into 3 separate tithes of 10 percent. One of them was the temple tax that the Jewish people paid for the upkeep of the one place that was acceptable for practicing their religion. One was what they had instead of taxes for the upkeep of local roads and civic projects. A third was supposed to take care of widows and orphans and the like who couldn't do so for themselves.

I'd argue that while Christians are freed of the 10% rules of the old testament, we still should desire the same priorities. To be good citizens and carry our fair share when possible in society. To have a dynamic ministry of helping widows, orphans and others less fortunate, and if you're going to attend a church, you ought be willing to help provide funds to help support it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
And this, in turn, goes back to my point about criteria for selection. Clearly you're using some criteria other than the bible itself to determine which parts are good, which are bad, which should be accepted and which should be abandoned. If you know the source is unreliable, why do you continue to use it? The advances in moral philosophy that have taken place in the 2000 years since the NT was drafted don't meet some set of standards?
A large part is multiple sources and authors within the bible each with a different experience of God as I said before. Also weighing Jesus' actions and words in context as quoted by multiple sources as carrying more weight than anything other parts of the bible both new or old testament.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
All great points. The argument that some people use the bible to behave like jerks probably has some merit, but so does the argument that some people act like jerks because they are trying to do what the bible tells them to do. My point was that it is easier for me to understand the thought process of these individuals than it is to make heads or tails of the thought process that goes into "moderate" or "liberal" theism.
I suppose I can see where you're coming from there. I was a biology major. I've seen evidence that things have evolved. I've seen evidence that the earth is older than the Creationists say.

When ID first came on the scene, it was a dynamic force in that it did prod scientists to go back and do more research. Unfortunately, it quickly turned into a political weapon to bring new versions of creationism into science classrooms, rather than simply criticisms of the scientific method designed to spark thought, discussion, and research. I still have admiration for John Polkinghorne, but Behe did a pretty big disservice Christianity and humanity in general by using his speculations as a political wedge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I agree with what you are saying, however I would like to suggest that there is an angle that you might be missing your analysis. Fundamentalists take a look at passages that discuss the penalties for wickedness and see cause for "legitimate" concern (I use quotations because it is genuinely legitimate to them, however others might not agree). So it may be that it's a play for power for power's sake, or it may also be that their motivations are more altruistic (from certain perspectives).
I'm sure that altruism is the predominant reason of those who vote the power hungry fundamentalist rhetoric speaking politicians into office. I'm equally as sure that those running aren't motivated by the same thing at all in most cases.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
For example, I often think of these "clashes of ideology" like two groups of people trapped in a boat on the ocean. Unfortunately, one of these groups believe it is their moral duty to drill a hole through the bottom of the boat. Quite understandably, this is rather distressing to the other group.
I guess I can see this in the stem cell debate at least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
To me, theists represent the group that likes to put holes in things however I can very easily understand that the opposite is true for theists (they see people like me as the ones doing the drilling). The difference is perspective. Of course, I will argue that reality is on my side, however that matters little so long as the "other group" believes that reality is on their side (nevermind that their reality has no evidence and is therefore a product of their imaginations).
And I think you paint with too broad a brush as far as seeing theism as the source of all the world's ills and blind yourself to attrocities perpetrated by athiests as well. I mean yeah theists bring things like the spanish inquisition or the crusades, but Josef Stalin and Mao Tse tsung were hardly saints for their atheism either. And while many of Hitler's followers and suporters considered themselves Christians, he didn't believe in a God. So I'd say that there's a matter of level of dogmatism and obsession to be considered.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
*shrugs* I'm not sure how you're taking "emotional manipulation" out of what has been a series of arguments built almost entirely on reason. I'm really struggling with how to reconcile that.
the questions are written for shock value, and given in a context of catching complacent satisfied people off guard then quickly capitalizing on their moment of doubt by presenting the author's own point of view as solution to their dilema. At least that's what I gather is supposed to happen.

I take it you've never seen an altar call in some of the more country baptist or pentacostal churches? Some of them have the same people getting saved from their sins hundreds of times because they are brought to question whether any of the previous times were real and the hearers feel bad.

And yes, the video does carefully choose its words for shock value. Yes rationality is a factor, and it attempts to present a logical chain, but it does state how the maker of the video sees things starkly, and paints things very much in black and white.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I promise that I'm not intentionally being obtuse, but I really don't understand how this is related. Would you mind coming at it from another angle?
Both groups place faith that there is some merit to their traditions. To the individual books composing the Bible. How much to weigh tradition and the experiences of former generations? You'd seem to argue that they have zero value whatsoever. The Catholics and perhaps others would argue that there's no understanding to be gained without 100% of our understanding being in light of trusting former generations, and specific peolpe within former generations. Protestants somewhere in the middle in saying that the testimony of previous generations should have some weight in how we interpret the world. Some traditions and traditional understandings they held onto. Others went out the window, depending on the specific group. Likewise, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Mormons, Budhists, Taoists, each have their own understandings of these issues and have their own evaluations of how to decide this issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
If you're in a boat and your neighbors are trying to drill a hole in the bottom, then I imagine there is quite a bit to be gained (or perhaps it would be more approriate to say "lost"). The point of the analogy is to point out that "personal" beliefs can (and do) have very real consequences for the population.
It happens, but I don't think it's anywhere near as common as you seem to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Yes, using the literal definition of the word, the video was manipulative. The author is intentionally attempting to manipulate people in to thinking critically about their beliefs. I don't think that's the message you were trying to convey though.
Not into thinking critically. Into coming to the same conclusion as he already had. But I see your point that he probably saw his intentions as more benign as you described, than predatory to prove he was right and other people wrong and taking the opportunity to demonize his philosophical opposition while they weren't there to defend themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Nope, you hit the nail on the head, but what this doesn't tell me what you assume that means in a broader sense. Your exact comment was: "I look at my life and beliefs, and conclude that life such as you advocate would be largely meaningless."
Life without a relationship with God and in which there is no higher purpose in suffering, the relationships we form, what we learn, where we came from, or where we go when we die. True there would still be some meaning in the relationships we form and if we're lucky what we accomplish in life just as with my view of things. But if we come from nothing go back to nothing, how do you get something from nothing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Without knowing what you assume I advocate as it relates specifically to "life" it's tough for me to know where to start. If it saves us time, I'll simply offer up that what I do advocate probably aligns the closest with Humanism. So if you think that living morally because it is right to do so and not because an invisible man is keeping score so that I can get a reward later (or avoid punishment) would make life "meaningless", I guess I'll need your help understanding why.
Reward and punishment have little to do with my motivation for my approach to God. Gratitude, a desire to be a better person in my own eyes, in God's eyes, and in those of my loved ones is closer to the mark. Perhaps to make a positive difference in life, to learn many worthwhile things as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I don't get that though. One of the many possible consequenses is ETERNITY ROASTING IN A LAKE OF FIRE!! With this in mind, please do not begrudge me if I find your cavalier attitute more than a little alarming. Have you really thought this through? Like, all the way? It doesn't seem as though you have.
I'm not convinced that Hell is a literal place. I think it's more likely a state of being in eternal separation from relationships to loved ones and God after death, with eternity to only look back in regret for opportunities missed. But even it when I believed it was literal in its description of sheol, hades, the lake of fire, and gehena as places (it never actually says hell anywhere) avoiding that wasn't my main motivation. If your actions of placing faith in God is not based on a sincere desire for a relationship with God rather than fear, then the bible itself says many times that you really haven't done anything for yourself or gotten delivered from sin.

So if you're sincere at all, and it's a real commitment at all, escaping punishment can't be your motivation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
Sir, this response entirely dodges my point. You can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't have predestination AND free will. You can't have a god that loves and protects *some* people and one that allows good and bad things to happen to bad and good people randomly. At some point, you have to come down on one side of the fence or the other. Or not, but we don't get to call the third option the product of critical thinking.
Sorry. I am trying to reconcile two things into my life that the bible tells me are true, and that I've seen some evidence for in both the sheer levels of organization and simultaneous chaotic nature of the nature of the particles in the string and quantum physics laws.

from the bible: We are told that God is soveriegn over salvation. There are no qualifications given for this. Check romans 8 & 9, also ephesians if you want to verify for yourself. We are also told that we are free moral agents held responsible for our behavior.

The reconciliation I've come to is that God chooses some of us, and in the context of whether we've been chosen or not, those people that God chose have a desire to choose a relationship with God because of this. I'll admit my thinking is a bit murky on separating these separate strands of thought in much better detail than this.

So is all history predestined before it unfolds in my view? I don't know. I suspend judgement on things like that. I'll say that what I said earlier about the Baptist point of view. That if there is a God, and that God is omnipotent and omniescient as attributed by most branches of Christianity and as traditionally understood, to know the future is to control the future. So if the future is something that already exists, then there is predestination of all events.

With the discovery of quantum uncertainty and the whole concept of self organizing systems that function on a foundation of chaos, I'd argue that it's not a necessary assumption that there is a future in existence before it actually arrives.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achilles
I'm going to end here with an apology for the length and my sincere thanks for the conversation. Take care.
it's ok. Now I owe you an appology for the length of my response as well. Thanks. It's been fun.


"If force is the game, the murderer wins over the pickpocket." Ayn Rand

"Justice is the midpoint between being treated unjustly, and treating others unjustly." Aristotle
Jvstice is offline   you may: quote & reply,