Monday, February 06, 2006

Which God Do You Believe In?

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. --Stephen Roberts

The [God] that can be described is not the eternal [God]. --Tao Te Ching

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it --Michelangelo


As far as I can tell, no two theists believe in the same God.

Does God have a gender?
Does or did God literally speak to people?
Is God a trickster who created a universe to look billions of years older than it is?
Did God dictate the Bible word for word?
Is Genesis literal truth, truth in the language of its day, or mythology?
Does God want anything of us?
Is there a Heaven?
A hell?
Do dead people come back to life?
Is God the same thing as the Universe or the Multiverse?
Is God loving? Wrathful? Both? Neither?
Are we God?
Is God in everything?

I could come up with hundreds of these questions. Maimonedes came up with 13 answers which he (sort of?) believed all Jews needed to believe, but even those are controversial.

In short, the theists are right when they say that God is unknowable. As an atheist, I agree. :)

But what's an atheist? Do I disbelieve every possible definition of God? No, I believe in love and in the Universe and some people say God is love or God is the Universe.

All I can do is describe what I don't believe in.

Perhaps that's ultimately a path to a God.

When I was a smart-assed computer science student, I was faced with a test question which I was sure had a mistake in it. Instead of trying to figure out if I was misunderstanding it or asking for clarification, I decided to set out disproving the question's consistency.

I wrote a page and a half of text, numbers, and equations trying to prove that the question was wrong. Half an hour later, though, I reached the end of my calculations and found that not only was the question right, but I'd reached the correct answer by trying to disprove it.

Maybe theism is the same way. Maybe some theists just saw the question "What is God?" and quickly reached the right answer.

But for me, all I can see right now is that the question rests on a false assumption. Perhaps by trying to disprove it, I'll return to theism. (I doubt it, but I must admit it's possible.) For now, all I can do is figure out all of the gods and religious claims I don't believe in.

Theists who want to know God should take atheists seriously. We might turn out to be your best allies.

57 comments:

asher said...

JA,

One of your better efforts. I think you're getting better.

CyberKitten said...

Agreed. Good one!

Mereadlin said...

"Theists who wants to know God should take atheists seriously. We might turn out to be your best allies."

You know, I don't know why so many of my fellow Christians think atheists are the "enemy". Personally, I love talking religion with people who don't believe what I do. Actually, I probably enjoy it *more* than talking with people who believe what I do.

Wandering Coyote said...

Very good post, JA.

And, in my opinion: it's ALL personal choice. We all choose what we believe, consciously or unconsciously.

I totally agree with mereadlin, too. Some of the best conversations about the bible and Christianity I've ever had have been here with the priests, who all know I'm not a Christian anymore.

Chana said...

You're definitely one of my allies.

And maybe more? I consider you a friend.

Interestngly, my father taught me something in the name of a certain Rabbi (but whose name I cannot recall at the moment) that applies to this post.

In Shabbat 31a we learn, "Raba said, When man is led in for Judgment26 he is asked, Did you deal faithfully [i.e., with integrity], did you fix times for learning, did you engage in procreation, did you hope for salvation, did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom, did you understand one thing from another.27"

The words "Did you deal faithfully..." are often translated as "Did you deal faithfully/ honestly in business?" However, the actual literal words are "Nasasa v' Nasata b'Emunah" which literally means "Did you strive and deal with matters of faith/ theology..."

According to this explanation, atheists (at least the intellectual/ learned ones) are indeed our allies, because they are striving with matters of faith, and hence force us to do so as well.

I'll ask my father who says this; I like the idea behind it very much. :)

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I think once I started asking questions that didn't include the word God, the answers actually made sense. That is what pushed me over the edge into Atheism.

For example. Why did God create cockroaches? versus, why do cockroaches exist?

Orthoprax said...

JA,

God can be used to describe the ultimate explanation as to why we are here. And/Or the ultimate explanation as to how best to live life and find meaning in it. These things may not be anything close to what theists might call God, but the search for these things would certainly be an effort worth making.

If Judaism were the ideological "search for God" rather than a dogmatic assertion of the same, it could much more easily retain people like you, I think.

asher said...

Cockroaches were created to rid the world of excess garbage. Humans make so much garbage it would have overwealmed the world were not for cockroaches.

Use Combat Jel

Shlomo said...

In Spinoza's Geometrical Proof we find the most basic question of gods. It goes like this (sort of):

If gods exist, what properties MUST they possess in order to be what we claim them to be, and what characters dintinguish those gods from the created things that we sould know the difference between them?

The question goes beyond argument over Biblical prophecy or historic accuracy. It gets to the core of what and how we define our notion of being and identity.

Deus sive Natura.

Jewish Atheist said...

Chana: You're definitely one of my allies.

And maybe more? I consider you a friend.


Absolutely. :)

BEAJ:I think once I started asking questions that didn't include the word God, the answers actually made sense. That is what pushed me over the edge into Atheism.

For example. Why did God create cockroaches? versus, why do cockroaches exist?


I've had a similar experience.


Orthoprax: If Judaism were the ideological "search for God" rather than a dogmatic assertion of the same, it could much more easily retain people like you, I think.

I think you're right. I would have loved such a religion when I was in high school. Unfortunately, this blog is the first time I've really been able to interact completely honestly with Orthodox people -- in high school I would question a little bit, but hold back.


SL Aranovitz: If gods exist, what properties MUST they possess in order to be what we claim them to be, and what characters dintinguish those gods from the created things that we sould know the difference between them?

That's a good way for looking at a minimum definition of God. If one could prove that a God that meets the minimum requirements is self-contradictory, he/she would have disproved all possible gods.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: Theists who want to know God should take atheists seriously. We might turn out to be your best allies.

Actually a Quaker friend of mine told me that she regained her faith in God through our conversations... So it would seem you've really hit on something here.

Sadie Lou said...

I hope you don't think that I think of you as anything but a friend.
:)
You most certainly are not my enemy. I love the way your mind works and wrestles with challenging questions. The proof of my respect is in the pudding; I keep coming back here.

Foilwoman said...

Were these questions asked by Maimonides? I'll take a stab at my beliefs (trying to define them):

Does God have a gender? I certainly hope not. If there is a divine being, the idea of it being sexualized seems a bit limiting. That said, if god does have a gender, it would pretty much have to be female, as the natural world pretty much limits the role of bringing forth life to the female of the species (at least for fauna, really don't now about flora).

Does or did God literally speak to people? Never anyone I want to know. And "god" is always telling people to do horrible things to other people. I assume, if someone has had a conversation with something purporting to be the one who made us all, that the person in the conversation probably needs some heavy-duty psychotropic drugs (and probably did, back in the day, when whatever holy text got written).

Is God a trickster who created a universe to look billions of years older than it is? If so, that's not good news for the believers in that rather mean-spirited deity, is it?

Did God dictate the Bible word for word?

If so, that's not good news for us. All that smiting, killing children, stoning women, hey, the murder of all the servants in Job alone (just because of a cosmic bet), some by burning to death kind of mean if the Bible is the inerrant [sic] word of god, we are so screwed.

Is Genesis literal truth, truth in the language of its day, or mythology?

Literature with parables. With lots of begetting.

Does God want anything of us? If so, no a very good or clear communicator, and thus, not infallible.

Is there a Heaven? No. This is it.

A hell? We're here, aren't we?

Do dead people come back to life? Only for those who need to up their medications.

Is God the same thing as the Universe or the Multiverse?

That's how I read it.

Is God loving? Wrathful? Both? Neither?

Disinterested, if god exists in the sense of being self-aware and aware of what it wrought.

Are we God? No, and far too many people think they are.

Is God in everything? No. Have you seen New Jersey? Anaheim? I rest my case.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou: I hope you don't think that I think of you as anything but a friend.
:)



Of course. :)

Sadie Lou said...

foilwoman--
I always ask people this question when I see answers given to the questions like JA asked:

Do you think YOUR answers are THE answers or just your own answers?

Foilwoman said...

My answers, of course. And I assume anyone else's answers are their answers. To the extent god's been telling them what to do (or their neighbor's dog), I want them on Zyprexa and now.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm not terribly concerned about who god is but I am more interested in what if anything he wants me to do. In other words, does my life have any meaning and purpose.

Sadie Lou said...

My answers, of course. And I assume anyone else's answers are their answers.

The world just can't function in this way because what makes you believe might be reasonable but what your neighbor believes might be dangerous...so how can all our answers be truth?

Foilwoman said...

Sadie: Who gets to determine what is true? That's why we have laws, regulations, and rules. And that's why people fight so hard about who gets to determine what is true. My view is that other than the Golden Rule (treat others as they would want you to treat them, not as you think they want to be treated, because what you want and what they want might be very, very different things), and scientifically verifiable data, nothing much is provable or true.

But we have to find a way to agree with people who believe very different things unless we can ensure we live in a completely homogenious society. Unless people want to live in isolated enclaves of solely like-minded individuals (the Amish come to mind, as well as some very Orthodox Jewish groups, and then of course, the isolationist and paranoid cults) we have to take into account other people's beliefs. I.e., if one wants Christianity taught in the schools, know that Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Shinto, Zoroastrianism and many other religions you have never heard of and may not want to will want to get into the mix. Same with government.

So yes, I think it can work, if everyone gets off the incredibly annoying (and enemy-making in a very basic sociologically easy to explain way) habit of "knowing the truth" or being the chosen, the special, the elect, the blessed, the whatever. Otherwise, we get they joy that religion has brought to Northern Ireland, to the former Yugoslavia, to the Middle East, to Europe during the Thirty Years War (and WWII for that matter), and pretty much anywhere there has ever been a theocracy. So I think acknowledging that no-one has a lock on the truth is the only way to go. While being appropriately sceptical of anyone who wants us to give up rights or liberties or to submit to their authority because they 'know the truth'. If it's that true, that apparent, there wouldn't be should world-wide disagreement, would there?

Foilwoman said...

Sorry for all the typos in the preceding comment: "the joy" not "they joy" and "there wouldn't be such world-wide disagreement" not "there wouldn't be should world-wide disagreement". And others, but that's enough for now.

Sadie Lou said...

I think you misunderstood me. I was just trying to point out that if we all made up our own truth, the way a lot people do, I think our world would be worse off than it already is.
I think the only thing holding us together is that many people adhere to the same truths.
It stands to reason that if a group of people adhere to same the truths--there is order and accountability. If everyone thought like you do (my answers are my own and I answer to myself) then we would be breeding trouble. Where is the accountability?
Where is order?
Who leads and who is led?

The mere fact that Christians believe they answer to God and give an account of how they lived their lives suggests there is a way to combat chaos. A leaderless group of people generally fail to progress or accomplish anything.

Foilwoman said...

Sophie: I don't think I you misunderstood you.

"I was just trying to point out that if we all made up our own truth, the way a lot people do, I think our world would be worse off than it already is." That is your opinion, but in my opinion, the people telling other people what to do in the name of god are the ones making the world a damn miserable place to be for people who disagree with them.

"I think the only thing holding us together is that many people adhere to the same truths."

So what about the millions who disagree? Do you excommunicate them? Force their conversions? Kill them? If you simply can't win over some people, and they mess up your "we're all happy here in our theocratic-centered universe" togetherness world view, which gets dumped, the people or the world view? No faith has ever, without force (and even with force), convinced everyone once different opinions were know. The only religiously homogeneous societies are isolated ones, whether by choice or by accident of geography and history. The likelihood of unity, given any knowledge of human history is less than slim. People have roasted each other over open coals over disagreements about religious beliefs (true: one Protestant group did it to an erring religious philosopher, but we could pick any monotheistic religion and could find equal horrors in the name of protecting the truth).

"It stands to reason that if a group of people adhere to same the truths--there is order and accountability."

How are you going to make that happen? Particularly with our nasty human habits as discussed in my previous paragraph. Inquisition? Moderately effective -- the Inquisition and Counterreformation did staunch the bleeding of souls for the Roman Catholic Church caused by the Reformation, but never completely healed the wound. Shunning? People just leave the Amish (and the Mormons, and other such groups) when the cost of group-think is too much for them. Even now, with the new evangelicals rising, the multitude of sects is only growing. Agreement simply isn't happening, even within Christendom, much less among the other great faiths (Judaism, Islam, Buddism, Hinduism) or other smaller faiths.

"If everyone thought like you do (my answers are my own and I answer to myself) then we would be breeding trouble. Where is the accountability?
Where is order?
Who leads and who is led?"

Accountability on this Earth is part of the legal system wherever you reside (unless you are unfortunate enough to live in a place where religion does rule your life, and then, yes, they can stone you to death still, especially if you are a woman). If there is a god, won't that deity be able to provide accountability in the hereafter? Men and women agree on the rules to live by. Some are pretty universal -- don't kill people. Others are pretty specific -- cold meals on Saturdays, no liquor, no showing any leg, no mixed religion marriages, no divorce, no shopping on Sunday, no sex outside of marriage (picking and choosing from various Jewish, Islamic and Christian laws, to be an equal-opportunity type gal, here). I don't think relgion leads to order, accountability, or coherent leadership outside of dynamic leadership, and that can be said of any group. But here's my question to you: in our (the U.S., but read the world) society of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other religious groups as well as non-believers of all stripes (don't believe in a principled manner, don't care, never gave it a thought, doubt but don't know) is you answer simply that they should convert? Or can you conceive that maybe some of these people might have something to teach you? How would you lead them without requiring them to pay homage to a god that slaughtered his only child after prolongued torture (not a fair question, but I'm leaving it in)?

"The mere fact that Christians believe they answer to God and give an account of how they lived their lives suggests there is a way to combat chaos." No, someone who believes they have a hereafter with hope of forgiveness might feel they could do horrible things in this world as long as they repented, accepted Christ as their true savior, and then accepted god's blessing. Or they could do horrible things (Salem Witch Trials) thinking themselves, at some level, to be doing good. The only thing I'm sure of when I meet a religious person is that he or she will have a Bible verse to justify pretty much any horrible act ("An Eye for an Eye" being a good one, and I've never had a Christian give a reply that was half as wise as Mohandas Ghandi's "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.").

"A leaderless group of people generally fail to progress or accomplish anything."

Now you are talking about group dynamics, etc. That's not religion, that's sociology. How societies accept ideas, process change, and deal with alternatives does require leadership. If religion led in science, we'd still be believing that the Earth is the center of the Universe (Catholic Church "led" regarding Galileo, and was just plain wrong. I won't touch biology at this time.)

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: The world just can't function in this way because what makes you believe might be reasonable but what your neighbor believes might be dangerous...so how can all our answers be truth?

They are not all the truth. Indeed it may be possible (or even likely) that none of them are the truth.

You seem to be assuming that their IS a single truth - which some are closer to than others. This may not be the case.

Oh, and the world already functions this way.

The Jewish Freak said...

I can possibly accept that G-d is the universe (or more accurately the source of the universe), but to say G-d is love is pure fluff. Love is essentially a chemical reaction, and if I believed in a God, it would not be a chemical one.

Also, you make a great point about atheists being allies of theists. After all, we should all be interested in the truth ultimately.
When I was orthodox, I related easier to atheists than to religious people, as they were generally more interested in thinking, and examining different possibilities.

CyberKitten said...

Sorry... I'm dipping in here between my favourite TV shows...

foilwoman said: If it's that true, that apparent, there wouldn't be should world-wide disagreement, would there?

Very true [grin]. If there WAS one universal truth... and we had discovered it... then why is there SO much disagreement on what it is?

Sadie said: If everyone thought like you do (my answers are my own and I answer to myself) then we would be breeding trouble.

Erm, that's called freedom of thought which I think is rather important. Unless I'm misunderstanding you.

Sadie also said: Where is the accountability? Where is order?
Who leads and who is led?

Accountability to who or what from who?

Civilisation is ordered chaos - that's just the way it is. Exciting isn't it? [grin].

Personally I don't want to lead nor be led. I am neither a sheperd nor a sheep thank you very much.

Sadie also said: A leaderless group of people generally fail to progress or accomplish anything.

Maybe so, maybe not. But who decides who leads or if we want a leader in the first place?

Right.... Back to my favourite TV.

Sadie Lou said...

cyberkitten and foilwoman--
You are so intent on disagreeing with me that you focus on trying to oppose me rather than see any worth or value in what I say.
I'm tired of offering up ideas just for the sake of arguement.
I'm not here to amuse you.
If you want to think that everyone running around with their own agenda without being accountable to anyone but themselves is a good idea--so be it.
I was merely pointing out the benefits of being called to account for one's own actions; responsibility.
This planet should not have to revolves around people's inability to work together for a common goal. It should have to be "every man for themselves" which is what your ideology breeds.
You only submit when it benefits yourself, right? You only nod in agreement with authority when you fancy it, right?
I'm not even talking about Christianity.
Forget the Bible right now, put your theory to the test: How many of us would benefit from "the world according to cyberkitten"? or "foilwoman" or "Pat Robertson" or "George Bush"
Thank God I don't have to respond to that.

Sadie Lou said...

*shouldn't

Foilwoman said...

Sadie: You didn't answer any of the questions I posed, but I will respond to your comments, and am troubled by your lack of response and your lack of questions in response. You don't amuse me. You worry me with your certainty. People who are sure can be very, very dangerous.

I didn't say no-one should be accountable . . . indeed, when talking about a community of laws I pretty much emphasized that everyone is accountable -- in this world for behavior in the world in the rules decided on, through good process or ill, in this world.

If the calling to account is of a religious nature, why should it be done here, by women and men (like me or, ugh, Pat Robertson, can't even stand to put him in the same parenthetical as me) rather than in the hereafter. If there are rules, ordained by some deity that we all *should* follow, then one would hope that deity would have the great good sense to speak them clearly and universally and not through magically disappearing tablets, burning bushes, or whatever.

As for the world according to George Bush and Pat Robertson, well, we're almost there (esp. w/ regard to Bush). As for me, aside for asking people to (1) not talk about confidential attorney-client privilege related matters on the Metro and (2) stand to the right on the Metro escalators, I'll leave the ruling the world business to others. I can tell you that I do not want to submit to the authority to which you submit to, whatever it is, and don't think you should make plans on me doing so. Make your plans for an ideal world assuming that I disagree. What happens to me? Do I live or die or what? If the world can only be ideal if everyone is likeminded then, newsflash, it's never going to be ideal.

My philosophy is not "every man for himself". It is everyone should understand that we live in a large community and that no-one comes from the exact place and perspective that I do. We should treat one another with respect, but leave room for differences and distance, while respecting basic human rights and liberties (which one may consider to be divinely ordained or humanely created and won, as long as one can respect them).

What about that is a problem for you?

Sadie Lou said...

None of that is the problem.
I don't have the time you do to write a whole diatribe here so I apologize if I didn't get to all your questions.
I just see a problem with the opinions that you and cyberkitten share--which boils down to: Nobody has "the truth" and so in that case--we are all free to make our own truth.
Which is fine if you're not screwed up but there are so many screwed up individuals out there that "individual truth" has to be a lie.
Right?

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: You are so intent on disagreeing with me that you focus on trying to oppose me rather than see any worth or value in what I say.

Actually i just asked questions... lots of questions. I'm trying (and obviously failing) to understand your postion (again).

I certainly don't think that you are here to amuse me or anyone else. As to resonsibility - we are all responsible for our own actions. We are responsible to the law & our own conscience.

When you talk about submission... submission to what/to whom? (see.. more questions).

Finally... as to how many people benefit from a 'world according to George Bush'... just watch the news & read the papers. It's all there. But as to my plan for world domination... 'fraid I don't have one. Dominating is SUCH hard work.

Foilwoman said...

And a quick note: since when is a post longer than a televised soundbite a diatribe? Substantive questions deserve real answers, not a bon mot. A diatribe is ad hominen attacks and lots of demagoguery. A lengthy response is merely a lenghty response. If what one writes is a diatribe, it is its tone and content that makes it so, not its length.

Anonymous said...

Our obesssion with orthodox oriented blogs is the direct result of the indoctorination by fundamentlist parents and rabbi/teachers. As for my situation they have done a wonderful job becuase as I approach the age of 60 I am still major-ly fucked up in terms of observance, though during the last 10 years it has gotten better

Okee said...

JA- I thought, frankly that your post was brilliant, and I especially agree with the end. (strange how that sorta sounds like an insult) The greates allies of the theists are the atheist, cause without them, how can we be sure that we're asking enough questions. It's not enough to follow a religion with your entire heart, mind, body, and soul unless you've asked and asked and asked. Because you do not want to wake up one fine day and wonder what the heck you're doing.

To Foilwoman- I'm not sure what your stance is on absolute law-are you for it? Against it? Who decides, really, that murder is wrong? I'm no murderer, (thank Gd :), but why should we take for granted that cold-blooded annihilation is wrong? We don't learn it from ourselves, because obviously some severely scary ppl are capable of it, as are certain societies. We don't learn it from the animals, and we certainly don't learn it from mother nature. So from who? Or should I ak, from Who?

Chana said...

Re my first comment here (faith vs. business)-

This concept was expressed by the Slonimer Rebbe.

dbackdad said...

As always, I'm a little late to the conversation.

First of all, I love that Stephen Roberts quote. Funny yet true.

Secondy, this is one of your best all-time posts, JA. I don't always join in the discussions, but I always read your posts. Frankly, though I pretty much agree with everything you write, I'm generally a little intimidated and don't comment.The intelligence of you and a majority of your visitors is incredible. You're all just a little bit above my pay-grade.

Keep up the good work.

Jewish Atheist said...

Frankly, though I pretty much agree with everything you write, I'm generally a little intimidated and don't comment.The intelligence of you and a majority of your visitors is incredible.

Don't be ridiculous. If you agree with me, you must be brilliant! ;-)

Seriously, go ahead and comment more. Your blog reveals that you are very intelligent. And besides, there's no IQ test to coment here. ;)

Random said...

Very late to the conversation, but in response to this of Foilwoman's -

"And a quick note: since when is a post longer than a televised soundbite a diatribe?"

I'd tentatively say when it starts including remarks like:

"if someone has had a conversation with something purporting to be the one who made us all, that the person in the conversation probably needs some heavy-duty psychotropic drugs"

and

"Do dead people come back to life? Only for those who need to up their medications."

and

"To the extent god's been telling them what to do (or their neighbor's dog), I want them on Zyprexa and now."

Most people would regard characterising your opponents as not merely being wrong but so wrong that they need psychiatric treatment as heading well out of reasonable argument territory and well into diatribe territory.

Still, it's something atheists have a long track record of doing (http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/p021101b.html).

I'd be happy to debate your detailed points if I could be confident the debate would be conducted courteously and without resort to accusations of mental illness, but as it is I'll confine myself to one -

"The only thing I'm sure of when I meet a religious person is that he or she will have a Bible verse to justify pretty much any horrible act ("An Eye for an Eye" being a good one, and I've never had a Christian give a reply that was half as wise as Mohandas Ghandi's "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.")."

How about "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" or "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone"? Much the same sentiment, 19 centuries earlier?

But apart from that - thanks JA for a very thoughtful post.

Random said...

Oh, and my answers to your questions:

Does God have a gender?
No.

Does or did God literally speak to people?
Don't know, it depends what you mean by "literally" I suppose.

Is God a trickster who created a universe to look billions of years older than it is?
No.

Did God dictate the Bible word for word?
No.

Is Genesis literal truth, truth in the language of its day, or mythology?
"truth in the language of its day" and "mythology" are I suspect much the same thing. In any case, that's my answer.

Does God want anything of us?
Yes. Why give us laws, etc. if He had no desire to see us obey them?

Is there a Heaven?
A hell?
Empirical evidence is lacking, but if you believe in God then yes, you would have to believe in H&H too.

Do dead people come back to life?
Not without miraculous intervention, no.

Is God the same thing as the Universe or the Multiverse?
I'm rather keen on the idea of God as the soul of the universe myself, though I've no great idea as to what that actually means other than that it sounds somewhat Spinozan.

Is God loving? Wrathful? Both? Neither?
Yes:-)

Are we God?
No.

Is God in everything?
Yes.

dbs said...

Great post. Most formal proofs of god begin with a definition of what god is. I find that by the time I’ve gotten through the definition, it’s not worth sticking around to find out if the rest of the proof works – the definition has rendered the exercise trivial.

I think that one of the key contributions of Judaism (at least in theory) is the abstraction of god. I don’t know if god (or anything ‘beyond’) exists or not, but that idea helps frame the question.

If you figure out that there is a god, please let me know right away - I’ll have a lot of explaining to do. :)

Oh, and thanks, foilwoman for the humor…(yeah, okay, and the serious stuff too.)

Foilwoman said...

Random: I'm sorry if the idea that I find that people who hear non-physical entities talk to them insane seems narrowminded and prejudiced of me to you, but hey, that's just me, living in the Reality-Based Community. Some of those who heard voices (Joan of Arc, for example) did seem "divinely" inspired, and maybe they were. I think she was schizophrenic or psychotic. Brave, heroic, a leader, and nuts. All of the above. But that's where I'm coming from, yeah. Do you believe that the ragged people on the street who hear voices from god or martians or whoever are sane and actually receiving messages from the divine?

Oh, and yes, I do not believe in ghosts or post-death manifestations or hauntings. I'm just narrowminded and bigoted that way too.

So, yeah, if that's a diatribe, fine.

I found your answers interesting, btw.

As for judging not lest ye be judged Random, let me know how it works for you when you finally try it. I'll be interested to hear. (Maybe I'm just getting a nice judgmental tone from you that you don't mean to put in your posts, if so, feel free to let me know).

DBS: Thanks. I'm actually not trying to rile people, I just write what I think and try not to over-censor (which tends to remove most of the meaning), but maybe I need to censor more as I don't want to tread on delicate sensibilities.

Random said...

FW,

How, pray, did I judge you? All I did was quote back your own words in response to your question and then offer an opinion as to how this looks to those on the receiving end (and yes, I will admit to a certain degree of irritation that you did this in response to a post from Sadie Lou, who has never been anything other than unfailingly polite to you) - if you feel this judges you, then perhaps you should show more care before setting finger to keyboard in the future?

As for the people who hear voices - well, put it those way. Those people who claim Jesus is telling them to buy a machine gun and shoot up a school I would say are certainly delusional, yes. Those who claim He is asking them to sell all their wordly goods and use the funds to set up a school for orphans in Africa on the other hand I would probably be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to...

Foilwoman said...

Random: We'll have to agree to differ. I definitelly get a whole whiff of judgment (and never any turning the other cheek or loving one's enemy, which I don't believe I am, but still) from both you and Sadie. And neither of you responded to the basic set of questions. Sadie is polite, but she was telling me her world view which is apparently that everyone should embrace Christ and we'd all live together happlily. I pointed out lots of examples of theo-centric examples of people not living together happily and asked how her world will deal with non-believers. No answer. None from you either, just calling it a diatribe.

And yes, people who hear voices in their head, still nuts to me. Sometimes harmless nuts, but still nuts.

Now, I am a woman who believes that people who hear voices from incorporeal beings are insane, that people who speak to the deceased (and hear them speak back) are deluded or insane, and that relying on these voices, whether benign or evil, is not a rational life choice.

Can you respond to the points in my "diatribe"? You or Sadie?

dbs said...

Foilwoman: Nah, go for it. Religious people rarely get to experience how utterly crazy these beliefs look to non-believers. There is a strong tendency to not be disrespectful, so you don’t often hear people say “…let me get this straight, Abraham heard a voice, thought that it was god, and so he went off to kill his son… and this is a good thing?” I think that getting a dose of this type of outside perspective is, well, helpful.

The most interesting thing is that people who believe this are not, in fact, crazy – or even irrational. They just believe in something irrational. So it goes.

Foilwoman said...
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Foilwoman said...

dbs: I am a bit less tolerant of this than most, having spent 15+ years married to an individual who it turned out did not actually perceive reality (as measured by real definable things, like bank balances, and schedules), had some hallucinations (mostly olfactory, but other beliefs in the reality of things that were just not real), and had a firm belief in his correctness, partially supported by widely accepted (but still absolutely nuts) religious beliefs.

Sometimes hallucinations are benign, but they aren't always. Even "loving" hallucinations can be very destructive. And what about the people with brain tumors who suddenly start getting messages. Ish. Don't get me started.

dbs said...

Foilwoman: Me, married for 18+ years. Funny how it's always our ex's who are the crazy ones :) I'm just glad to be out of it and back on planet earth (this is earth, right). Though you're right, there is tragic destruction that results, and my children continue to suffer.

Foilwoman said...

DBS: Oh, I'm nuts alright (as are most of us, to a greater or lesser degree), but I'm not hearing voices. But I do live in the reality-based community, and am not very tolerant of those who don't. Particularly when it affects my children's well-being (including their ability to go to college).

Sadie Lou said...

I wrote a huge answer to you, foilwoman, and Safari booted me off right as I posted it.
I promise to return to it when I'm not so mad about loosing such a long comment.
Darn it.

Foilwoman said...

Sadie: My sympathies. I've always been most eloquent when that happens to me. You'd think I'd learn, and draft on my word processing program, but no . . .

Sadie Lou said...

Let me just ask you this one thing that I formulated while reading a couple of your responses to Random.

You said that my worldview is "if everyone embraced Christ, we'd all live in peace and harmony" or something along those lines.

My question: Can you explain to me how all of us embracing Christ and living by his example wouldn't produce those results?
I don't see any reason why a world adoption of Christ wouldn't be successful.

Foilwoman said...

Sadie: Since every Christian theocentric country in history has slaughtered and tortured it's citizens in the name of god (of course, only the ones they considered dissenters, but hey), I'd say, yes, history and human nature are the reasons.

So now answer my questions. What are you going to do with non-believers in your earthly paradise? To the extent your point of view wins an electable (or coup-enforcing) majority, what will you do with people who disagree with you. People like Jews, Muslims, dissenting Christians, Hindus, etc., and me? Kill us? Lock us up? Silence us? Torture us into agreement and then watch us for apostasy (been done, by Christian governments and leaders). Do tell. You've been asked several times now. Answer the question.

Sadie Lou said...

Foilwoman, I said "follow the example of Christ". The instances in history you mention had everything to do with selfish men pursuing power under the guise of Christianity and NOTHING whatsoever to do with the examples that Christ set before us.
Human nature does get in the way and the main reason a full adoption of Christ and his example will never be seen--people are too prideful to follow Christ.

My question was: Why would anything negative come from following Christ and his example? Not following men that claim to be Christians--there's a difference. Have you even read Christ's teachings in the New testament?


So now answer my questions. What are you going to do with non-believers in your earthly paradise? To the extent your point of view wins an electable (or coup-enforcing) majority, what will you do with people who disagree with you. People like Jews, Muslims, dissenting Christians, Hindus, etc., and me? Kill us? Lock us up? Silence us? Torture us into agreement and then watch us for apostasy (been done, by Christian governments and leaders). Do tell. You've been asked several times now. Answer the question.

I guess I don't understand the question because the Bible doesn't tells us to DO anything to non believers. It's your choice to accept God's free gift of grace or deny it and that choice ultimately is between the individual and God.
All I am asked to DO is pray for unbelievers and preach the gospel to that extent only.
Wrath against unbelievers and people who will not bend their need before a righteous God, is totally God's. I have no reason to judge anyone or bring harm to anyone simply because they refuse to accept the gospel.
Does that answer your question?
If anything, the Bible predicts that Christians will be persecuted to the point of death by the unbelieving world--not the other way around. (it's already begun in places like Africa and Asia)

Foilwoman said...

Sadie: When you say that Christians who lead and do bad things aren't Christians, well, yes they are. They're also human. Unless you can eliminate human frailty, any Christian government could end up like all other Christian theo-centric governments in history. Killing minority religions, etc. Yes, other religions do it to Christians, but Christians have been plenty happy to do it in reverse.

The Bible predicts a whole bunch of stuff and can be interpreted in a whole bunch of ways. Really. Nostradamus predicted a bunch of stuff and so does Sidney Omar. I do not fee the least bit reassured. If you were in power, or people who thought like you, without checks and balances, I would be afraid for my ability to life my life as I wish, to have and enjoy freedom, to have and enjoy sex, to raise my children as I wish, etc. I don't by your idea that if people were "real Christians" they wouldn't feel and act on the urge to kill, torture, maim, belittle, and abuse. Christianity hasn't managed to get people to give that up yet (including people who considered themselves, as you apparently do "true Christians"). I doubt it will.

A book doesn't change human behavior, and if Jesus Christ had the ability to get the people who act in his name to not slaughter others wholesale, maybe the time of the First Crusade (when the streets of Jerusalem ran with blood), the Albigensian Crusade (killing dissenting Christians), the Thirty Years War (warring Protestants killing each other in truly frightful ways, and killing
Catholics and Catholics killing Protestants), the Southern Baptists support of segregation and lynching, etc. would have been good times to start. You don't even seem to know of this history, and yet dismiss it with an airy and inane "They weren't Christians."

Yes they were. They're your spiritual ancestors. The people who held pograms for Jews in Eastern Europe (and expelled and killed Jews in Western Europe), enslaved natives whereever they discovered them, etc. etc. were Christians. You'll be different, you say. Study those events, and then say how you avoid the whole "Us" vs. "Them" problem that is the bane of all humans. Will Jesus wave a magic wand and make your rulers benign? Your response is simply not credible. I believe you are sincere, and simply don't comprehend or understand what you are saying, but at the base, that is the real problem. Read your history books.

Sadie Lou said...

You are always so rude and meanspirited. I'm finishing this conversation because you cannot engage me without insulting me or my intelligence.
"Read your history books"
How in the world do you know what I have or haven't done?
I'm sorry but find some other Christian to be your punching bag--we're through.

Foilwoman said...

And yet you don't address the historical events mentioned, or the underlying points. So nice to receive your nonjudgmental Christian response to word challenging your beliefs with pesky little facts. I threw no punches, merely debated. I'm sorry that feels meanspirited, but I'm getting the feeling that anything but "Oh Sadie, your wonderful example of Christianity inspires me" as a response feels like an attack to you. But your book tells you how to respond to an attack (turn the other cheek). If you can't follow that tenet even when only your ideas (and not you as an individual are being challenged, how would you manage as the Christian leader you think would bring us all to happy unity?

How do I know what you haven't read? Well, based on the evidence . . . . no, I have to correct you have. Maybe you've read Herodotus, Thucydides, Cervantes, Frankl, Wittgenstein, most of the extant histories of the Crusades, the Thirty Years War, St. Bartholomew's Day, the Reformation, the Inquisition, the Counter-refromation, the Jesuits, the conquest of the New World, the Slave Trade, etc. But you don't write as though you have. Or maybe you read it and didn't absorb it. I don't know. But you can't respond to questions, and you perceive intellectual challenges as personal attacks. Get over it.

Sadie Lou said...

My last response will be this:
I don't owe you a thing.
I engaged in debate with you until I could do so without falling into the temptation to return to you what you dish out.
Before I became a Christian, one of the things I would do for sport is be sarcastic and mean. If I could crush the spirit of another, I felt better about myself--smarter somehow.
I don't know you and I don't know why you say/write the things you do but I don't have to waste another second of my time on you.
Thanks anyways.

Foilwoman said...
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