To the believers...

(308 Posts)
PedroPonyLikesCrisps Tue 29-Jan-13 23:17:16

How does one justify to themselves belief in a supernatural being with literally no hard evidence? This is something I just don't understand. Without the assumption of a god or gods, we are able to explain pretty much everything in the Universe and even those yet-to-be-answered questions are being gradually chipped away at without any need for a deity.

So what makes people believe in a god? Is it fear, conditioning, laziness? Theories of the supernatural were our first attempts at understanding the world (big yellow disc moves across the sky, don't know what it is, maybe a god carries it around up there). You could say they were humankind's first attempt at scientific reasoning. But we've moved on from these archaic theories now and we can explain all these things we couldn't before, yet for some reason, religions live on and people continue to think that some guy lives upstairs and watches over us even though there's no rational way to argue his existence.

Do Christians think Muslims are insane for their differing beliefs? Does anyone still believe in the Greek or Roman gods anymore? Do the religious find Scientology to be just another religion or does anyone else see the the words 'cult' and 'religion' are pretty much interchangable?

Discuss!!

Why bother discussing as you have already made up your mind PedroPonyLikesCrisps.

A belief requires no rational explanation. I don't intend to argue His exsistance either. I believe, you don't, lets just leave it at that.

Yes I still believe in the Roman/Greek gods and there are quite a few people who do, we just don't get much publicity. Google reconstructionist/neo-paganism if you want to find out more.

hiddenhome Wed 30-Jan-13 12:22:36

I can feel that there is something within me that comes from God. I know that sounds idiotic, but I don't mind. It makes me happy and keeps me on the straight and narrow. I'm also a sucker for a mystery. I would find life unbearably dull if everything could be explained smile

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 12:26:15

I believe my partner loves me and we will stay together with me until we die. I have no 'hard evidence' that this will be the case.

"Do the religious find Scientology to be just another religion or does anyone else see the the words 'cult' and 'religion' are pretty much interchangable?"

A general rule to live by is that religions are fairly transparent (you probably know what the core beliefes of each religion are) but cults are not transparent, for example scientologists aren't open about what their beleifes are.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 14:23:15

Hi Pedro

Being an ex believer I can tell you how I think I was able to maintain my beliefs.

I was exposed to Christianity through society quite frequently and I think seeing trusted adults believing in god normalised it. I was also terrified of death and a belief in an afterlife was comforting. I think it also made life seem more interesting to imagine there was a hidden realm all about me. (I sometimes wonder if thats why some hold onto a belief in ghosts?) As I grew older I questioned it more, and to such a depth that it fell apart under the glare of my critical analysis.

Can I just add that rejecting the notion of the supernatural doesn't deny me the ability to marvel at and appreciate the awe and wonder of the cosmos.

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? Douglas Adams

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 14:27:10

Ethelb, your belief in your marriage is hardly comparable seeing as you can physically see, touch and hear your dh. You have evidence that he values you and is committed to the relationship. Maybe you didn't meant it that way but I can't see how your beliefs about your marriage are relatable to religion. Maybe you could expand it for me?

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 14:29:40

I am not married. So I do have to have a little faith.

I'm not saying it is related to religion.

I just don't agree with the idea that anyone is 100% rational, all the time.

But you obviously have very strong beleifes so why are you coming on here to ask "questions"? I am a scientist in my soul, but you do come across as sneering and sarcastic in your OP.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 14:47:38

But that's faith in the continuance of a two way relationship that you can physically experience. There is no evidence for a two way relationship with god so I'd say that your belief in your relationship has some basis as opposed to none.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 14:50:19

I don't think the op claimed they were 100% rational all the time?

HolofernesesHead Wed 30-Jan-13 17:28:47

I guess, to answer the OP, I'd say that my religious faith (I am a Christian) isn't ultimately about 'explaining pretty much everything in the Universe.' It's not really about giving answers to a set of questions, that could equally be answered by 'science' (e.g. how did the universe originate?)

For me, faith is much more about the belief that beyond the universe, outside of time and space and therefore beyond the reach of 'science', God is, and the only way we can know this is because a) all that is, comes from God, including us, so we have it in us to reach out for God (that's what religion is), and b) God became human in the person of Jesus and talked and lived so as to show us who God is.

I know that athesists in the Dawkins-esque mould get very frustrated by this answer, and say it's 'special pleading', but there you go. It is what it is. I don't think it's possible to assess religious truth-claims alongside scientific truth-claims and get any sensible answers. They are just two very different lines of human enquiry (Thank you, Emmanuel Kant! That's about the only thing I agree with you on!)

HolofernesesHead Wed 30-Jan-13 17:30:44

And no, Pedro, I don't think that Muslims are insane. I think they are reaching out for God, the same as Christians. Tell us about yourself - have you come from a religious background?

greencolorpack Wed 30-Jan-13 17:32:30

Re Muslims, and do Christians think they are insane, i would say no. I believe they are wrong about their religion but not insane. I have a Muslim colleague on Facebook and she posts about her beliefs about being pro life etc and I'm always surprised by how much we would have in common if we ever discussed our beliefs, although we never do.

Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life, but Christianity isn't the only religion that has some of the truth. Other religions may be wrong but they can be right about some things, like the sacred value of human life, and belief in marriage as a building block for a stable society etc.

HolofernesesHead Wed 30-Jan-13 17:36:55

Green, I agree that all religions have good and truth in them - all religions are a reaching out for God, including the Greco-Roman religions that Pedro mentioned. Even Scientology, even though I personally find it a bit bewildering....

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 19:03:36

@headinhands but if people aren't 100% rational 100% of the time, then what is wrong with a little bit of irrational religion?

Oh and I do need faith that the relationship will continue into the future as that is the unknown. Building plans aroudn that assumption is a bit irrational.

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 19:04:31

@green the Abrahmic religions all have fairly similar beliefs on the sanctitiy of human life.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 19:43:24

Ethelb you have grounds for believing your relationship with your dh will continue based on other couples being in longterm relationships and seeing how you thus far manage to problem solve together. You have none of that with god. You have no verifiable data beyond 'what you feel' which incidentally is what believers of completely different deities would say.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 30-Jan-13 19:53:57

Discuss

No. I did my a-levels a long time ago, I'm not doing yours for you.hmm

tuffie Wed 30-Jan-13 19:54:07

I don t think believing is due to conditioning, as my sister and I both had the same upbringing and yet I believe and she doesn't.
I don t know why I believe. I've had a go at trying not to believe, but the belief is just there. Simple as that.
And I always say that if it all turns out to be a load of baloney (spelling?), then I ve had a wonderful and fulfilling life believing in it!! I know it sounds cheesy ( pass the sick bag round ),but my faith makes me so happy and fulfilled and (pass a bigger bag) is what makes me wake up and say I want to make someone else happy today.

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 19:58:22

@head he might be hit by a bus tomorrow

Maybe a better analogy is beleiving a particular, untried political ideology will work.

@dione grin

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 20:31:01

Okay seems like we're getting our wires crossed Ethel. The upshot is your relationship with your partner already exists. You have no evidence that such is the case with any deity.

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 20:43:21

Perhaps a relationship is a bad example. I think the point remains that humans believe things irrationally. It is not the sole preserve of people who are religious.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 20:49:59

I recently 'read' a book called Irrationality a few months ago. Was a bit heavy going but dipped in and out for a while.

My main beef with religion is discrimination. And then there's the fundies but that's a whole new thread. I appreciate many get round this with the whole pluralism thang but find that interesting as knowing the scriptures, it doesn't seem to support an 'all faiths lead to god' theory. And many of it's followers agree, heck you even have followers of the same religion knocking the crap out of each other.

I also genuinely don't understand why people believe in a deity.
Have never had the courage to openly ask though as I realise it can sound like a snippy question.

To be honest I see it as being on a par with a child believing in santa! I really don't mean to offend and therefore have never said this outloud before.

sciencelover Wed 30-Jan-13 21:00:47

What constitutes hard evidence, OP? It would be impossible for me to prove the existence to God to someone else, but I have enough compelling evidence for me to believe.

For me, like so many others (Newton, Faraday, Galileo), the study of the sciences is religious in nature. Science helps explain the "how" and religion helps explain the "why". Both strive to understand the unknown, but the mechanisms for gaining that understanding are different.

mummysmellsofsick Wed 30-Jan-13 21:02:25

If you really want to understand this OP as opposed to starting a bun fight, then read Karen Armstrong's History of God. Interestingly she explains that 'belief' is a pretty new concern in religion. I always liked Jung's answer to the question of whether he believed in God. He said 'I don't believe, I know'. Jung's Answer to Job is also a very interesting read.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 21:09:13

Science, a believer in a different deity also has 'compelling evidence' for their god. How so?

sciencelover Wed 30-Jan-13 21:21:04

I believe in a God who's known by many names. IMO, anyone who believes in God who makes real attempts to live a good moral life as part of their belief believes in the same God, even when the doctrinal understanding of God's nature is different. Obviously, some are wrong in their beliefs of who God is, but, as far as I'm concerned, it's the same being.

God would be a horrible being to refuse to answer the prayers of people simply because they don't understand his nature correctly.

Can I ask about the answering people's prayers?

Do believers honestly believe that every prayer will be answered? We know they don't so who's prayers do get answered? Is it to do with volume of prayer? Number of people praying? Whether the person praying is "good"?

People often say "I will pray for you", do they honestly think non-believers find this comforting?

zulubump Wed 30-Jan-13 21:37:41

Hi OP, it's a good question and I don't often try to justify my beliefs. I feel that I had no choice but to believe in God. And not because of conditioning - I didn't have a religious upbringing. I just always have believed in a God and not to believe just doesn't make sense to me. And I am quite a sciencey person. I remember an A-level physics class when I suddenly felt sure of God's existence! I only started going to church a few years ago and found it all quite scary to begin with. But now that I've had a chance to make some friends that I can really discuss things honestly with I am feeling at peace (most of the time!) with having a Christian faith. It feels like an itch I've been needing to scratch all my life and it's a relief to finally get round to it.

I don't think people of other religions are mad. I think religion is a pretty imperfect thing given that it's run by humans. The church I chose to go to is out of convenience really (easy to get to, good facilities for kids) and not because I carefully assessed whether their beliefs are in line with mine. I didn't even think about whether Christianity was right for me as opposed to Islam or any other religion. I think when we decide to reach out to God we are limited by things such as our culture and background, our situation in life - what church we can physically get to, whether we'd feel comfortable walking into a church/mosque etc depending on our upbringing. I think God sees those things and knows when we are doing the best we can.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 21:46:18

Science, why would god reveal himself using different names and laws and allow people to be so misunderstood that they visit the worst atrocities upon each other? What if you live a moral life but have no belief. Or have faith but commit heinous acts?

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 21:54:23

@handinmyhand i think a lot of 'religious' people dont belive in a God as literally as you maybe imaginig. Not in the UK anyway.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 22:24:26

So you don't believe in a literal god? What do you mean when you say god?

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 22:29:27

I am not talking about myself. I mean that people don't necessarily beleive in a dial a prayer God in the sky. Plenty of theists just believe a God-like figure started creation, but isn't necessarily interventionist. I think a lot of religious people in the UK are actually theists rather than believe absolutly everything ever said about the reality of God by their religion.

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 22:33:15

So a god that is hands off? Why would he say otherwise in the bible?

headinhands Wed 30-Jan-13 22:33:30

Or Quran?

sciencelover Wed 30-Jan-13 22:40:02

If I were to categorize worst off to best off, this is how I would do it:

worst: someone with a strong belief in the existence of a just God, but someone who commits heinous acts regardless. The devil and his angles have very strong belief, yet they will be the worst off because they knowingly incite humanity to commit atrocious acts.
very bad: someone with no belief who commits heinous acts
good: Someone with no belief who lives a good moral life
best: someone with strong belief who allows their life to be guided by God and lives a good moral life.

Obviously, this is just a general guideline.

ethelb Wed 30-Jan-13 22:54:45

Because they pick and choose the bits they beleive.

headinhands Thu 31-Jan-13 06:10:32

Can you give me an example or heinous behaviour?

puzi Thu 31-Jan-13 06:30:44

The very fact that humans are the only species who are interested in 'the origin of life' and philosophy and morality is in itself incredibly revealing. The Bible says: ' [God] has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end' (Ecclesiastes 3). This curiosity didn't evolve - it is unprecedented in the history of life in the universe... we are obsessed with finding out what happened at the beginning and what will happen at the end. Why? Because God created us to be curious.

headinhands Thu 31-Jan-13 08:13:28

Actually puzi there is evidence of cultures that had no discernible belief in the supernatural. Will Durrant if you want to google.

Going back to the scale of belief etc Science. How does Jesus maintaining that he is the route of salvation fit into this?

headinhands Thu 31-Jan-13 08:16:18

How come this, as you see it, god given curiosity leads so many of our most prominent scientists to reject belief in a supernatural element to the universe?

newlark Thu 31-Jan-13 08:27:41

Don't have time for a long post now but I'm a Christian because I believe it is the truth - that Jesus was who he said he was. There is plenty of evidence that he existed and around his life and death (Strobel's Case for Christ was helpful) and based on the evidence - even if not cast iron - I decided to trust him. I now have experiential "evidence" that has helped my faith grow as I've seen God working in my life and changing me - I know it might not convinve anyone else as it is personal to me (sceptics might dismiss much as coincidence) but it has strengthened my faith and brought it alive.

Ninjaforever Thu 31-Jan-13 09:51:43

Hi all, I am Muslim . Just to give you guys a basic idea in case you are not aware, Muslims believe in Jesus pbuh ( peace be upon him) and Moses pbuh as well as many other prophets . We believe our God Allah revealed the Torah and gospel . The basics of Judaism and Christianity are the same as Islam but they differ greatly due to Jews not accepted Muhammad pbuh as the final messenger of God and denying his existence which is a great sin hence why there is a lot of disagreement between Muslims and Jews . We believe Christians are in the wrong so to speak as they believe Jesus is the son of God and that Jesus dies for their sins. Muslims associate no partners or children to God as this is the most major sin in Islam and unforgivable unless repented for before death. Known as shirk.
Muslims believe that Allah raised Jesus pbuh to the heavens and replaced him with someone else God made this person look like Jesus . We believe Jesus will return sometime before the end of the world and make Islam conquer .
Forgive me for the 'we' 'they' speech - wish I had time to word it better .

Going back to the original Q it is easy to believe if one reads the glorious Quran with its proper meaning. A phrase common throughout is that the intelligent ones take heed and ponder about life creation . This is not to say whoever doesn't is dumb but I think there comes a time in everyone's life when they wonder of their purpose and how everything is so perfect.

I wish I had time to go into detail. Perhaps later inshaAllah ( if god wills).

tuffie Thu 31-Jan-13 17:21:22

Just back from work and jumping back a few posts but just wanted to say to ZULUBUMP - great post, exactly how I feel !

MadHairDay Thu 31-Jan-13 18:58:40

I believe in God because I think that faith makes sense of life.

I believe in God because I see God changing lives, setting people free from their past, from addictions, from abuse, from anxiety, from so much more.

I believe in God because there is an intellectually robust position to be argued around the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and if I take such evidence seriously I need to consider the claims of Jesus and to make a decision about them for myself.

I believe in God because I think that there is a kind of metanarrative around all of humanity through the ages whereby we are reaching for something more, something outside ourselves, something that makes some kind of sense of what it is this world is. A narrative of beauty, of justice, of morality, of love.

I believe in God because God has changed me and changes me every day.

I believe in God because I have experienced God's love intellectually, emotionally and physically.

And much more than that smile

zulubump Thu 31-Jan-13 20:08:00

Thanks tuffie smile. It's a challenge to put why I believe into words. Also wanted to say to Newlark and MadHair that yes I agree that I had to take the life of Jesus Christ seriously. His life as recorded in the Gospels speaks to me on a really emotional level. The idea of God humbling himself to live amongst us and to spend time with the most unloved members of society; the idea that he would not become the kind of leader that people expected - one who leads by might and force - to the extent that he allowed himself to be crucified. And then he still forgave and loved us. It makes me feel that I want to believe and have faith. And it's an inspiration in my life to be more than I think I could be on my own.

headinhands Thu 31-Jan-13 20:40:10

Ninja and Newlark. You can't both be right, but you can both be wrong. People of different faiths express deep feelings of connection and talk of powerful personal experiences of their brand of god. This suggests that these feelings are human in origin and stem from the psychology of belonging. Furthermore people can experience these feelings through secular means too which again makes it more likely to be about the brain and nothing supernatural.

cloutiedumpling Thu 31-Jan-13 21:31:56

It is an interesting question. I am a Christian but can see exactly where non Christians are coming from when they say there is no objective evidence of God or Jesus. I was brought up going to church and believed in God. I went through a few years in my twenties though when I felt that since there was no objective evidence of God that all Christians must be mistaken. My head told me they were all wrong but ultimately I still believed in my heart and I still do so now. I couldn't shake off the belief and since that time I have experienced things which have strengthened it. Maybe it is due to fear or conditioning or maybe as headinhands says it is all in the brain. But I don't think so.

headinhands Thu 31-Jan-13 22:21:25

So Cloutie, you feel your experiences are more than the brain. What about the experiences of those who believe in a different god, or those that get the same sense of deep connection else where?

sciencelover Thu 31-Jan-13 23:07:24

YourHandInMyHand: "Do believers honestly believe that every prayer will be answered? We know they don't so who's prayers do get answered? Is it to do with volume of prayer? Number of people praying? Whether the person praying is "good"?"

They are all heard, but there's no guarantee that you'll get what you ask for on the timetable you ask for it, if at all. I do believe your actions can either help or hurt your ability to get answers to questions. It is my personal belief that every prayer for physical healing is answered and given. However, the healing may happen in the resurrection instead of this life.

EllieArroway Thu 31-Jan-13 23:54:35

Amazing, isn't it?

Of course people are free to believe whatever crap they want, but it's when they seek to justify it to others it becomes increasingly apparent just how fatuous & rather childish those beliefs are.

"I believe in God because he changed my life". And this is justification/evidence? My life has changed many times over, for better and for worse, and I don't believe in God & certainly never asked him/she/it for help. I managed by myself - I'm a grown up.

The most astonishing claims are those about prayer - which manifestly does not work. Ever. "Oh, but God always answers, he just doesn't always give us what we want - his answer can be yes, no or maybe". That, yes, that is how they justify prayer hmm

Think about it - yes, no, maybe. So whatever happens, God wins.

Please can I win the lottery, God?

I do - he says yes.

I don't - he says no.

I do - but in 6 months time - he said maybe!

All of these scenarios mean that God has answered the prayer! You would get the same possible yes, no, maybe results praying to a washing machine.

I suppose it's as Dr House said...."If religious people understood reason, they would be no religious people". I agree with him.

I don't respect religious beliefs themselves - they are simply unworthy of my respect so they don't get it. And if that offends then I'm not sorry.

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 05:46:16

Why do more African babies die than Welsh? Some African countries
boast highest % of Christians in world but god still persistently cares less about their suffering than he does about developed countries. It's blatantly clear that there isn't an intervening god at work.

Ninjaforever Fri 01-Feb-13 06:15:36

I really hate this whole if there is a God why does he let bad things happen argument.
Muslims believe this life is a test in fact there's a famous saying that for the believer this world is a prison and the nest life is paradise but for the disbelievers the prison is in the next life and this is their paradise cos they can do as they wish.
Re: babies dying . There are a few reasons this may happen , Allah says that wealth and children are the attractions of this world, it is he who gives so he can take as he pleases. This may even be as a punishment for sins. This is why we should always pray for forgiveness and guidance and for our children to be among the righteous.
Having said that, a child dying before puberty automatically goes to paradise- into sure if disbelievers defo do but as they are innocents and haven't matured enough to find the guidance themselves I would think so.
Anyway the point I'm trying to make is on the day of judgement if a child sees his parents not in paradise he will try to pull them in hence helping the parents cause .
Easier said than done but if parents truly believe they should be happy that the test is over for their child. Having said that one shouldn't wish for all our children to be taken from us just to make it easy as there are 2 purposes of pro creation for religious reasons- one to spread the message 2. To glorify Allah. 3. Leaving righteous children behind after our own deaths is something that will continue to help us beyond the grave.
Another point I want to make, if a disbelievers child died he would most likely look for comfort / answers etc this may lead into looking at Islam which could be what guide him to the religion . Allah guides who he wills.

Ninjaforever Fri 01-Feb-13 06:28:08

The lottery example would only be acceptable if someone bought a ticket for first time and constantly prayed to win - which is unlikely in terms of probability, more chance of losing. So if he did win he'd say it was because of God but if he didn't , he'd accept that this win wouldn't have been good for him. ( he shouldn't be gambling anyway as a believer!)

If you believe u will always attribute the good things in coming from God and the bad things as either punishment , evil eye, devil . Those who do not continually pray can transgress and make it easy for the devil( I hate that word shaytan is the arabic ie satan) to tempt you to do things you shouldn't. Not seeking Allah's. protection can lead to jealous envious people causing you harm.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 01-Feb-13 11:39:01

Headinhands, many of our most prominent scientists do not believe in god. Many of them do. Belief in god is not necessary nor is it essential to scientific study and discovery.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 01-Feb-13 11:41:26

Ellie, are you saying that people of faith are incapable of reason?

TotallyBS Fri 01-Feb-13 11:46:52

There are so many religions in the world. If one day the Christians are proved right, for example, then a lot of muslims, Hindus, scientologist etc are going to look pretty stupid.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 01-Feb-13 11:49:05

Headinhands, I had a wee look at Will Durant, but I couldn't find anything regarding cultures without faith. I would be really grateful if you could remember the names of any.

I'm fascinated by this sort of stuff.grin

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 13:33:21

H Dione, google Will Durrant Primitive Atheism or something of that ilk and it should throw up some resources.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 01-Feb-13 13:34:32

Will do. Cheers for that.

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 13:44:40

Dione my statement about the number of atheist scientists was in response to Puzi's assertion that our desire for knowledge is that ^god created us to be curious'. It appears god shot himself in the foot when he gave us a thirst for understanding.

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 13:54:00

Ninja, you said ^ for the believer this world is a prison and the nest life is paradise but for the disbelievers the prison is in the next life and this is their paradise cos they can do as they wish.^

There is so much wrong with that! What about the countless non believers who live and die in the worst conditions imaginable. And then they go on to prison as you call it? I'd like to know how radically different your life is from mine. I doubt it's much different at all. You probably pray but other than that we both care for people, want to be of benefit to the world and cause as little hurt to people as we can. You say as a non believer that I can do what I want? I say we can both do what we want but that we both want to be kind and peaceable on our journey through life.

niminypiminy Fri 01-Feb-13 14:56:32

Headinhands, I've met quite a few research scientists in my time, working as I do as an academic. It may be that the ones who are atheists (not all scientists by any means) are so because of their scientific curiosity. However, an equally likely one is that scientists are influenced in their thinking by the culture they live in quite as much as the rest of us are. Atheism is now the default mode in the liberal-intelligentsia, and it is currently very unfashionable to be a Christian in that circle. (I know this to be true -- it's the world I work in.) And talking to the research scientists I've met, they are just as able to be sheep as anyone else, and just as likely to view recieved ideas as unchallenged truths.

Just sayin'.

momb Fri 01-Feb-13 15:13:30

I have no hard evidence that emotional love exists but I still believe it to be true. There is no bioplogical reason why a human parent would continue to feel a need to care for an adult child, but I believe that many parents care for and love their adult children.

There are lots of 'gut feelings' that we all have which cannot be explained, and for me my faith is one of those things.

'So what makes people believe in a god? Is it fear, conditioning, laziness? ' Definitely not laziness. As a senior scientist I am a very analytical person and during my life I have questioned my faith many times. The bible and the Q'ran do not sit comfortably with all I know about the world but I am pragmatic that a book written by believers is not the same as a book written by God. What makes me believe in God is knowing, beyond doubt, that God is there. I know it as surely as I know that I love my children and that the sun will rise in the morning. It isn't something I need to analyse or consider, I just know it to be true. I would go as far as to say that it doesn't matter how one experiences God, because that has more to do with the individual and less to do with God, but that it is the ability to believe without proof is a very great gift.

I think that your question is phrased rudely, and that you would have received more useful replies if you had shown respect for those with faith just as you would want those with faith to show respect to you.

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 15:31:58

Momb, your post contains too many logical fallacies to deal with in one Friday afternoon but here's a brief stab at it:

how would you explain animals caring for their young? What about the humans that don't care for their young? What about people that don't find faith a gut reaction?

HolofernesesHead Fri 01-Feb-13 15:34:15

What's happened to the OP? I'm slightly hmm at people who start off these big-question threads then are seen no more.

momb Fri 01-Feb-13 15:47:51

Oh bless you headinhands, I'm going to presume that you really don't understand the concept of belief in anything and that is why you are not understaninding what I am writing.

My point is that I can believe in things that I cannot explain. It is my personal decision, but does not require an intellectual choice from me because it is a gut feeling; something I know at a level I do not need to analyse.. You are quite correct in that there are logical fallacies in this position. That is the point..my faith does not require logic to its ultimate conclusion.

I am sorry that I am failing to make myself clear. I am not trying to justify my faith to you. I was merely answering the OP.

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 16:06:20

Momb people who believe in gods/belief systems completely different to yours do so with all the same gut feeling and fervour that you do yours. Doesn't that suggest it's about you and nothing outside of your own brain? Would you at least try and address some of the points I raised about your post?

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 16:15:51

Again Niminy my post was addressing puzi's claim that our curiosity is from god.

I can see how it might be explained by it being more expected to be atheist in those circles because it's increasingly seen as the norm (why has this happened?) so long as you agree that the flip-side is as valid in that before recent times more people professed to a belief because it was 'the done thing'.

momb Fri 01-Feb-13 16:29:46

*'Momb, your post contains too many logical fallacies to deal with in one Friday afternoon but here's a brief stab at it:

how would you explain animals caring for their young? What about the humans that don't care for their young? What about people that don't find faith a gut reaction?'*

Faith is not born of logic. To quote my favourite Humanist:
'Science adjusts it's beliefs based on what's observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved' (Tim Minchin, Storm, 2009). I think that's overstating my own position slightly but I have not observed anything which makes me doubt my faith: lots to make me doubt organised religion, lots to make me doubt the letter of the holy texts (that's all of them, and I have read most of them), but nothing which shakes my belief in God.

1) Animals, including man, whose offspring are not born independent, have a biological imperative to care for their young. A desire to care for a non-dependent infant is born of love (presumably) and although there is no biological imperative I believe that it still exists.
2) Humans who do not either care for their young or ensure that there young are cared for are generally behaving against nature. This is not an issue of faith, but one of extreme circumstance/illness.
3) People who don't find faith a gut reaction either go looking for it to make their own decision or they don't. I have been through periods of my life when I wasn't sure, particularly when I was a teenager and my life was black and white and all about me. How (or even whether) one experiences God is a personal thing.

'Momb people who believe in gods/belief systems completely different to yours do so with all the same gut feeling and fervour that you do yours. Doesn't that suggest it's about you and nothing outside of your own brain?'

Yes we do all have different beliefs, born of coming to faith from different circumstance, experience, culture for example. How we all experience God is a personal thing. It does not follow however that God does not exist.

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 16:39:25

Which god Momb?

CheerfulYank Fri 01-Feb-13 16:54:29

I just do. Always have (except for a brief episode when I had pnd). I wasn't raised to believe really. My parents do/did, but never talked about it or prayed or took us to church. My brother is an atheist. I've always been the most religious member of our family and the only church going one. I've just always been aware of "more", a sense of God's presence, since I was a very small child. Now I mostly attend Catholic churches as DH is Catholic, but if I had to put an actual name to what I am, it would be Red-Letter Christian. It's sort of a movement where people concern themselves mostly with the words of Jesus, i.e. help the poor, don't be hypocritical, etc.

This guy is fairly rational.

As far as Scientologists go, I always think of Anne Lamott, who is a nutty liberal Christian writer I love. She said something once about having a bad night and deciding it was totally nuts to believe in Christ, no different than Scientology. And then her priest friend said calmly "Scientologists are crazier than they have to be." grin

But really I agree with whoever said up thread that cults tend to be secretive about their beliefs.

CheerfulYank Fri 01-Feb-13 16:56:38

Animals don't often care for their disabled young, do they?

momb Fri 01-Feb-13 17:00:08

Which god Momb?
It's all one God, just the individual experience is different. Isn't free will great?...bearing in mind that all of this is my experience of God and not an attempt to change your mind or make you understand my POV.

Going back to my original point, whcih is essentially the same as CheerfulYank's: I just do :-D

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 17:09:06

So this one god. Does he have a name. What can/can't he/do. What do they require from you? How do you know what you do about them?

CheerfulYank Fri 01-Feb-13 17:11:06

Its name is I Am. grin

MissAnnersley Fri 01-Feb-13 17:17:06

I believe in God. I'm a Christian. It is a personal belief that I do not impose on anyone else. I was brought up by two devoutly Christian parents and our church played a big part in my upbringing.
I question it, I think about it but my faith doesn't leave me, it feels like part of me.
I don't think anyone is 'insane' for believing something different or for having no religious faith.
Most of all though, it comforts me. In some of the most difficult times in my life it has given me strength.

momb Fri 01-Feb-13 17:28:26

headinhands
Why don't you believe in a higher power? If you don't have faith, why are you so interested in other people's faith? Is it a desire to feel something because you feel that you may be missing out or is it a desire to be proved right?
As someone who has faith I don't usually think about why some people can't have faith, but it appears there are people without faith who do spend time thinkning about those who do. So, why don't you experience faith?

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 17:40:30

Can't and shouldn't my questions stand alone? For what it's worth I'm fascinated with what people think and why. I'm a people watcher if you like, myself as well as others.

momb Fri 01-Feb-13 17:46:45

headinhands
Why don't you experience faith? You say that you used to believe until it fell apart under your analysis. You chose your own experience. Why ask others to justify theirs? My own faith stands firm under my analysis, as presumably does the faith of all those posters who believe. Why is that important to you?

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 18:02:05

I wouldn't say it was important as such. Just interesting. Don't think I'm doing anything wrong, pretty sure I've never been rude to anyone and wouldn't want to be. Just assume people will discuss it I they want to and are obviously free to give it a miss if they don't.

niminypiminy Fri 01-Feb-13 18:13:10

It's good for people of faith and people of none to talk and to try to understand each others' points of view. We can all learn a lot from genuinely open conversation. But that's so hard -- for both sides-- to achieve.

I sometimes wonder though what it is about God that keeps some people who don't believe in him coming back to the discussion. It seems like an itch that some people can't stop scratching.

When I was an atheist - which was for most of my life, and I was brought up in an atheist family, of whom I am the only religious member - I used to be sort of fascinated and repelled by religious belief. Now it seems to me that was the first stirrings of my awareness of my longing for God. I don't think being this need be the case. But if it's not that, I wonder what it is all about?

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 18:52:30

Most people I know well enough to know what their religious leanings are are atheist/agnostic. Most of them bar my dh don't, as far as I am aware really ever talk or think about it. We're a strange couple!

I remember when I was a Christian having debates almost identical to these about ghosts and how I felt there was no evidence. The irony!

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 18:57:19

It's not just your god we don't believe in though Niminy, it's not personal, we don't believe in almost as many gods as you so we've got a lot more in common than you think.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 01-Feb-13 19:02:43

That's ok Headinhands, I only mentioned it because I am increasingly finding myself in the prescence of people who think that having faith and having a scientific mind are mutually exclusive.

EllieArroway Fri 01-Feb-13 19:28:52

people who think that having faith and having a scientific mind are mutually exclusive

They are. Science is all about critical thinking, "faith" is the abandonment of it.

There are a few religious scientists about, but you find the more eminent & educated they are, the less likely they are to be religious. Only about 3% of the elite of the elite (The National Academy) believe in God - and not a single one of them believes in he/she/it because of scientific reasoning.

Faith is an emotion - it's "I don't want to die. I am too important in this universe to have a finite life. Someone up there loves me so much they want me in their magic sky kingdom. I want to believe this so much, I just will".

This is not compatible with science. At all.

CheerfulYank Fri 01-Feb-13 19:42:30

Ellie I don't really think about the afterlife much. I'm not afraid of death. A terror of nothingness isn't why I believe in God.

niminypiminy Fri 01-Feb-13 20:24:40

Ellie, what qualifies you to say why it is that people believe, when you appear to listen to what they actually say so rarely?

Ninjaforever Fri 01-Feb-13 20:52:10

Headin hands what I meant abt the prison comment is, Muslims must stay on the straight path, no gambling, no drinking, no drugs, no dating no non marital sex ,nothing that most non believers would refer to as having a good time hence 'prison' but by following these set rules they will get a much greater reward from Allah for their strength and belief. That is the whole point of religion believing because of revelations like the Quran even though there may not be physical proof .
With all due respect you have none if these rules to follow no hijab to wear, no dietary requirements. Everyone loves to be complimented , how many gorgeous muslim women are out there concealing themselves because Allah told them to , when they could be getting all sorts of attention from guys and having a huge boost of confidence. They choose not to get this sort of attention as God is the one they want to impress .

Several times its mentioned in the Quran of people in the past questioning the messengers , doubting their message and asking for proof . Allah knows it is hard to believe without physical evidence but this is the test . I question parts of my religion at times but that's healthy I don't want to follow blindly- I find the reason for something and everything makes sense.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 01-Feb-13 21:20:46

Ellie, I do not have faith because I fear death. I don't. Indeed everlasting life sounds a bit scary to me and I find the idea of reincarnation terrifying.

Where did you get the idea that faith=fear of death?

stickygingerbread Fri 01-Feb-13 21:23:34

I have always been surrounded by atheists and it is always a wonder to me. They, and these are loved ones, always seem to think it is about some thunder being with mad white hair in the sky, like a malevolent Beethoven that people made up to explain natural phenomena.

They really underestimate the ancients and should do their homework instead of opining without actual knowledge.

It is a wonder to me because I just cannot understand how they can't think bigger than that. Much Much bigger. To me god has always been Mind. It has always seemed obvious, before I ever encountered organized religion which was delayed since I was raised by atheists. To me - we, and all that is, are thoughts in the mind of god. It isn't about some magic person at all. Any person would be an object within a field of mind.

All my dear atheists think that material is the fundamental reality and I think that consciousness is the fundamental reality. To briefly sum it up.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 01-Feb-13 21:30:45

Ellie I am interested in your comment Science is all about critical thinking. Faith is the abandonment of it. Can you explain what you mean by it?

CoteDAzur Fri 01-Feb-13 21:38:57

"by following these set rules they will get a much greater reward from Allah"

I would think "good" behaviour is worth very little when it is done in expectation of reward from a higher authority.

I don't kill, steal, lie, or sleep around because I have my own pride, principles, and integrity. Not because I want to be petted on the head and given some reward.

CoteDAzur Fri 01-Feb-13 21:41:54

"I just don't agree with the idea that anyone is 100% rational, all the time. "

I think I am. Can't think of any instance when I am not. No superstitions, no belief in anything without overwhelming evidence.

Why do you think nobody can possibly be rational all the time?

CoteDAzur Fri 01-Feb-13 21:43:13

"Allah knows it is hard to believe without physical evidence but this is the test"

Sounds like a con.

Is it also a test to have put million-year-old fossils in the ground and telling people that the earth is only a few thousand years old?

Ninjaforever Fri 01-Feb-13 22:30:32

Cote, you've quoted the easy parts- almost anyone can not kill, not steal not sleep around. Would it be so easy to not date? Not mix with men? Not obtain interest in monetary terms? Esp living in the west these are great challenges we must overcome, men and women mixing everywhere, interest involved in almost everything, mortgages credit cards, loans.
It's very easy to say if u don't like it go elsewhere( by the way I didn't say I don't like it just stating challenges) . The whole point of Islam is to spread the message and you aren't going to do that by just remaining with other Muslims.
We do everything to seek Allah's pleasure and he had promised us a great reward which is reiterated many times in the Quran. It also states how the disbelievers mock and how there are some that will never believe but all we can do is try and spread the message.

ethelb Fri 01-Feb-13 22:34:42

@cote but people voted in DC. That's not rational!

Ninjaforever Fri 01-Feb-13 22:34:44

Also where does it say the earth is only a few thousand years old ? I've never read anything that suggests so in Islam

TotallyBS Fri 01-Feb-13 22:55:43

Ninja - the Old Testament does not directly say how old the earth is. The figure comes from scholars working out a timeline based on events and people described in the Bible.

nightlurker Fri 01-Feb-13 23:11:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 23:13:06

Everyone loves to be complimented , how many gorgeous muslim women are out there concealing themselves because Allah told them to , when they could be getting all sorts of attention from guys and having a huge boost of confidence. They choose not to get this sort of attention as God is the one they want to impress

I find your post so offensive in sommany ways to men and women! And here are just a few.

It reduces women to something to be looked at/not looked at. It reduces men to being only interested in how a woman looks.
Why would a woman need a huge boost of confidence from a man?
What about if the woman isn't an 'oil painting', does she get less of a reward as she wasn't giving up as much attention?
Is the way a woman's genetics happen to have arranged her face the number one way she could attract praise?

Ugh.

cloutiedumpling Fri 01-Feb-13 23:32:05

I agree, Nightlurker, but for me I had to believe in God before I could decide to follow him.

Headinhands - I didn't want you to think I was running away from your questions but I've been a bit busy with RL today. To me, belief isn't a choice, it is something that is deep inside me that I can't do anything about. There is lots I don't understand, why there is so much suffering for example, but that doesn't mean I can stop believing. As to why I attribute things to God rather than accepting them as tricks of the mind? I'm not sure. I'll think about that one.

Can I ask what caused you to loose your faith?

headinhands Fri 01-Feb-13 23:45:27

Course you can ask Cloutie but it's nothing dramatic I can assure you, I think it was just time and thinking. And I really don't mean that to insinuate that 'theist = not thinking' as I wouldn't say I was ever thick thankyouverymuch smile oh and it was also the fact that I didn't want to give up my evil, heinous sin filled life of wanton bill paying and unbridled housework mwahahahaha (that was my evil laugh btw)

puzi Sat 02-Feb-13 00:34:26

Ellie, I think it is foolish to put all our trust the authority of Science and in prominent scientists who, I believe, still have a very incomplete understanding of life and the universe. The atheist regimes of the Third Reich and Communist Russia did just that, and were very quick to adopt their own forms of 'Natural Selection' in the last century in order to 'advance human civilisation' (eugenics). Their reasoning was rational and logical, but based on incomplete understanding... and the results were devastating.

puzi Sat 02-Feb-13 00:48:42

Headinhands, there is a brilliant verse in Isaiah which says something like 'as far as the heavens are above the earth so are God's ways higher than our ways'.Scientific discovery since the time that verse was written has shown the Heavens to be much, much bigger than early humans first thought...God gave us curiosity so we could find these things out and have a better understanding of Him... And hopefully develop a bit of humility along the way. Sadly, a lot of Scientists become quite arrogant with knowledge and lack humility which can be disastrous for us all..

EllieArroway Sat 02-Feb-13 03:24:23

Ellie, I think it is foolish to put all our trust the authority of Science and in prominent scientists who, I believe, still have a very incomplete understanding of life and the universe

Who gave you.....smallpox vaccines, aeroplanes, motor cars, the internet, television, telephones, antibiotics, heart transplants, dentistry, computers, anaesthetics, refrigerators, satellite navigation (the list, I'm sure you'll agree, is endless)? Yes, science did. What did religion provide? Sweet FA, unless you count the divisiveness and bloodshed it's promoted for millennia.

You think it's foolish to trust science? Fine. Put your money where your mouth is and pray instead of calling for a paramedic when you have a heart attack or develop sceptemia.

And no, science doesn't know everything and doesn't pretend to, unlike..."Oh, God made the world, because this book of bronze age babble says it did", which is all religion amounts to.

The atheist regimes of the Third Reich and Communist Russia did just that, and were very quick to adopt their own forms of 'Natural Selection' in the last century in order to 'advance human civilisation' (eugenics). Their reasoning was rational and logical, but based on incomplete understanding... and the results were devastating

Seriously? This crap is still being trotted out?

There have never, ever been any atheist regimes on this planet. There have been communist ones - they are not the same thing. That Stalin happened to be an atheist is no more to the point than that he happened not to believe in Father Christmas. Maybe we should call him an asantaist? Look at the harm asantaism has caused in the world hmm

Oh - and Hitler steadfastly maintained that he was acting in the name of Jesus Christ. That's how he, and others ultimately, justified the holocaust to themselves. Without centuries of Christian anti-semitism it may never have happened.

Of course, Hitler was possibly lying about his beliefs - but that he was not an atheist is without question, I'm afraid. And he knew exactly what to say to the faithful to get him to do his dirty work, didn't he? Remember, Hitler killed no one - he got a lot of Christians to do it for him. Think on that.

You have some reading to do before you attempt to call anyone else foolish.

EllieArroway Sat 02-Feb-13 03:30:57

I'm a bit embarrassed for you that you've trotted out the natural selection/eugenics crap, btw. A stupider reasoning is hard to imagine.

NS is a fact - an indisputable scientific fact. In other words, to be clear, it happens to be true and explains how life on Earth is so diverse and how we happen to be here at all.

That knowledge can be abused by bad people is well known. Doesn't make scientific discoveries any less true or valuable - so exactly what is your point?

Nah, don't bother to tell me - I already know you haven't got one. You've just paid lip service to all the Christian fundie propaganda that's lying around the internet without taking the slightest trouble to think for yourself and discover whether any of it is actually true.

How very Christian of you.

Ninjaforever Sat 02-Feb-13 04:06:47

ok I've given some bad examples I'll admit probably based more on my own experiences , it was wrong of me to generalise like that ( and dh says i never admit when im wrong :P)Just want to clarify the prison thing is not words from the Quran but a metaphor given by a contemporary Islamic speaker and their interpretation of it.

Regarding science - who gave man the knowledge to do all these things? There's a saying in Islam tawakkaltu in Allah- total faith in Allah. However it is noted not to have blind faith , an example was given to 'tie your camel and THEN have tawakkaltu in Allah. ( basically camels wander away so you should take some action to keep it there and then rely on Allah).
Same can be said for a heart attack for example- you don't need to sit there and suffer thinking God will save you - it's ok to call 999 and use the resources he has provided.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 08:31:57

Ninja, there's a common saying in Christian circles that goes 'god helps those who help themselves'. It's basically the same as the camel thing isn't it. I like it because it belies the knowledge that god is pretty useless so you have to do as much as you can to sort it out. It also contains a nifty excuse for suffering. 'If god doesn't help you it's because you didn't help yourself.' If you're not already aware of it google just world hypothesis which will explain it better.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 08:56:28

Sorry to go back but wanted to post some statistics in response to cheerful yanks's post re disabled children yesterday:

Disabled children are
3.4 times more likely to be abused
3.8 times more likely to be neglected
3.8 times more likely to be physically abused
3.1 times more likely to be sexually abused
3.9 times more to be emotionally abused
Sullivan and Knutson 2000)

puzi Sat 02-Feb-13 09:06:44

Ouch, Ellie! With a Biochemistry degree from a top university, I have proof enough I think in a scientific way, whatever assumptions you make. I think it is foolish to put all our trust in Science, and be humble to accept that, whilst progress in understanding has been amazing, it is still incomplete. Of course Natural Selection happens... just not good when humans take it upon themselves to control the process themselves. Nuclear physics is amazing... But also dangerous.

My personal belief is that scientific understanding combined with following the teachings of Jesus (I am quite specific about that - I don't think it is enough to say 'be a Christian' for obvious historical reasons) leads to the best in humanity. Jesus taught us to 'love your neighbour as yourself'. It is this principle that has led to the most progress in western society in terms of the way humans treat each other: the welfare state, equal rights, the NHS, aid to the developing world, charities helping the most destitute in our own society... Melvyn Bragg made a very good documentary about the influence of the Bible on modern civilisation here:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zmc6f

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 09:16:57

Please share that proof with us, puzi.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 09:30:04

"Jesus taught us to 'love your neighbour as yourself'. It is this principle that has led to the most progress in western society in terms of the way humans treat each other: the welfare state, equal rights, the NHS, aid to the developing world, charities helping the most destitute in our own society..."

This is actually quite funny smile

Would you really dispute that all this progress coincides with a decline in the hold of Christianity in Western society? There was a time when the Church was the ultimate power, the hold of Christianity on Western society near-absolute, and that is the period we call Dark Ages - when 10000s of women were burnt at the stake and about 80000 were tortured to death in Inquisition tribunals across Europe. "Love your neighbour" - LOL! grin

Then came Enlightenment and the importance of Christianity in Western society decreased. And this is when the progress you speak of came, slowly, in Western society.

By the way, re "equal rights" - I was reading the book Significant Sisters when I realized that women had practically no rights in the UK in early 1800s - no right to earn money or keep it, no rights to divorce their husbands however abusive he may be, no rights to see their babies if husbands threw them out.

In comparison, you might be interested to learn that Islam gave women rights to inherit & keep their inheritance, rights to divorce their husbands for a variety of reasons (including, because they feel like it), earn money, and keep their small children when they divorce.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 09:30:49

... and that was about 1200 years before this "progress" came to the UK, with its Christian heritage.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 09:38:40

ethelb - re "cote but people voted in DC. That's not rational!"

Is this a joke?

How is the behaviour of you people living on a small island supposed to prove anything re nobody being rational all the time in the world.

Besides, I don't know why you people voted for your PM, but I suppose most if not everyone who did would have had their reasons. They have arrived at conclusions other than you, obviously, but that doesn't mean that their mental processes while doing so were not rational. It would probably mean that their circumstances, beliefs, and value systems are different than yours.

crescentmoon Sat 02-Feb-13 09:43:57

id say that was one of the proof's of Muhammad's (pbuh) extraordinariness whatever else you think of Islam cote. consider the misogyny in Arabic culture in 2013 and then think how did a man from the 6th century arabian desert come to argue for the rights of women in that way. it would have been something rare from a European of that time, thus even more so amongst the Middle Eastern peoples. when did British women get the right to divorce their husbands and then the Quran spoke of spousal maintenance for divorced women. The Quran invoked hell upon the people who kill baby daughters and let sons live. not relevant to british society now but still relevant in large parts of Asia where female infanticide is very common and prevalent. the muslim asians would have equalled the Indians and Chinese for those verses of the Quran.

crescentmoon Sat 02-Feb-13 09:44:46

*but for those verses in the Quran..

puzi Sat 02-Feb-13 09:49:13

Well, as doubt is faith's shadow, I have done my fair share of reasoning over the existence of God in my time. As I keep saying, knowledge is incomplete, but here is one example of why I believe in a Creator: electron transport chains in mitochondria are made up of proteins which have transition metal ions in the middle. The metal ions need to be in exactly the right place for the transport chain to work (within a few nm) which means the protein must be made up of exactly the correct amino acids, which means the mitochondrial DNA must have exactly the correct code... All eukaryotes (that is, non bacterial species) have mitochondria. Mitochondria convert the energy organisms get from food into ATP, the energy cells use to do just about anything. For life to exist the electron transport chain needs to be perfect, from the start and in its entirety. I don't believe this electron transport chain could have evolved (I would be interested in hearing suggestions about how it could have evolved). It's far too complicated. It suggests a Creator to me. (I didn't read this in Christian propaganda by the way, I learnt this when I was at university, so it is my own personal 'thinking for myself' reasoning').

That's just one small example of the way I have reasoned for the existence of God in a scientific way... but I haven't just relied on science for my faith.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 09:50:35

ninja - re "Would it be so easy to not date? Not mix with men? Not obtain interest in monetary terms?"

IF I thought those were necessary and morally important, I would do them for myself and not because I expect reward from some higher power. That was my point.

As it is, I don't think any of the above are necessary or morally important, so I don't do them.

"It's very easy to say if u don't like it go elsewhere"

Which I don't think anyone said here, but it is of course an option. If you think life in places like Afghanistan and Iran would be more suited to your world view, maybe you would be happier there.

"The whole point of Islam is to spread the message"

Err... no it's not, actually. The whole point of Islam is Submission (i.e. the meaning of the word "Islam") to God. The religion is supposed to be between you and Allah, and you don't get extra special rewards for bringing him more converts, over the rewards you already get for having been perfectly submissive and obedient all your life.

I kind of remember a verse in the Quran that says you can't guide anyone to Islam, it is Allah who guides whoever he wishes. I'm sure you can find it if you look.

puzi Sat 02-Feb-13 10:00:32

Also, Côte and Ellie, I find the tone if your comments (hints of ridicule, aggression and scorn) undermine the reasoned and rational debate that atheists pride themselves on.

I was quite specific about referring to 'the teachings of Jesus' as opposed to simply 'Christianity' for the obvious historical reasons you have outlined above. Melvyn Bragg comes to the conclusion that progressive secular thinking actually stems from... The Bible. So yes, a decline in Christianity has paradoxically coincided with the progression seen in western society.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 10:02:00

CoteDAzur, Ellie, you seem to have bought into some common historical errors.

Re communist regimes: the establishment of an entirely secular society, the extermination of religious belief, the complete suppression of all religious organisation, and the persecution of believers were central aims of the communist regimes. It is accurate to call them atheist regimes, since atheism was a core part of their programme. It is worth noting, of course, that the church played a central part in the resistance to communism.

Re the dark ages: this covers a long period, roughly between the fall of Rome and the end of the first millennium. During that period it is worth noting that learning of all kinds was kept alive by Christians, particularly in monasteries, and that monasteries preserved, translated, developed and circulated the learning of the classical world.

The period of the witch trials comes much later, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and this is also the period associated with the inquisition. It's worth noting that the countries where the overwhelming majority of executions took place were those where the state prosecuted so-called witches. Where the inquisition was active and thus the prosecution was in the hands of the church, virtually no women (or men for that matter) was executed for witchcraft. Likewise, the record of the inquisition is more mixed than the historical myths allow. It certainly did not practice widespread execution.

It should not be forgotten that the Enlightenment was not in itself an anti-Christian movement (though it is true that certain Enlightenment thinkers, most notably David Hume, were themselves atheists). What is true is that Enlightenment thought developed ideas that were developed initially in Christian thought such as the equality of individuals and the centrality of reason in human life. It is truer to see the Enlightenment as the fulfilment of certain themes within Christianity rather than its antithesis.

Finally, let's not forget that the fact that we have hospitals and a welfare state is because caring for the sick, and helping the poor were central activities of Christianity. The idea of the inalienable worth of each person, regardless of their wealth, sex, family background or political influence led early Christians to set up the first hospitals, to feed the hungry - to love their neighbour as themselves. That we take these values for granted has everything to do with the historical legacy of Christianity, and without that legacy we would not have them, because such values were unknown in the classical world before Christianity.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 02-Feb-13 10:06:13

I believe in God. I'm not lazy, nor am I afraid. I was certainly conditioned, but no more so than my brother, who now has no religious faith.

Having done a Science degree and PhD, and latterly a psychology degree (which is where we actually talked about scientific method - don't recall that at all in my proper Science degree), I have had, and have taken, plenty of opportunities to question. My faith is irrational. But I still have it nonetheless. And I have stopped wondering why to be honest.

I accept that my upbringing influenced my moral viewpoint. As I think it does for everyone, in the presence or absence of religious belief. Interestingly,
I now find that moral outlook makes my membership of the church that shaped it rather difficult. Reflecting on how best to live a good life, and the compatibility of that with my church, has replaced reflecting on the compatibility of a scientific view of the world and a faith based one.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:08:46

"I don't believe this electron transport chain could have evolved... It's far too complicated. It suggests a Creator to me. "

Two things I'd like to say:

(1) If you consider yourself a scientist, you must know that this is not "proof". It is not even evidence. This is you reeling before a complex system and assuming that it can't have happened by itself, over millenia.

In this respect, you are no different than the early humanoids, looking up at rain, thunder, and lightning and thinking they are indications of a vengeful God.

(2) Even if your reasoning takes you to believe that we were all created on purpose, can this not mean that maybe we are an experiment of some alien life form? When a civilization reaches a certain level of technological development, it is entirely conceivable that they would want to create a life form - code their info on DNA, restrict their lifetimes through telomerase and see what happens over many generations.

If you are so sure that life on earth is created rather than evolved, why not consider other possibilities than a deity who expects obedience and behaviour control and then dishes out rewards or punishment on an abstract "soul" upon death?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 10:08:49

Argh. Lost a post I was about to send. Wrt the mitochondria. Know v little about that but know tiny bit more about natural selection.

Ultimately it calls to mind Douglas Adams' quote . . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in’an interesting hole I find myself in’fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’

How do you make the leap from deciding mitochondria proves god to it being a specific god?

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:10:34

"I was quite specific about referring to 'the teachings of Jesus' as opposed to simply 'Christianity' "

Well, that looks like clutching at straws from where I am sitting.

I don't know how you think you can separate the teachings of Jesus from Christianity.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:12:34

By the way, I don't know what "atheists pride themselves on" because we are not a club, we don't know each other, and there is no single atheist pride or mode of behaviour.

I don't think I am being less than civil. If you don't agree, feel free to report my posts.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Feb-13 10:13:17

Cote I read your 21:41 post last night and was shock. Do you really think that you are 100% rational all the time?

TheFallenMadonna Sat 02-Feb-13 10:16:48

Puzi- are you part of the creation Science movement? Someone once signed me up for their newsletters for two years, and they contained pretty much that argument. Pick something that is well adapted to its function, suggest that it is therefore too perfect to have evolved completely missing the point about natural selection.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:17:13

crescent - You are right. It was actually a shock for me to realize that women in the UK had none of these rights, as late as 1830s shock

As you can imagine, my female ancestors never had to fight for these rights and I had never imagined that many other women in the world actually had to.

Anyone claiming that progress such as equal rights for women comes from the neighbour-loving influence of Christianity needs to wake up and learn some history.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:20:27

Dione - Yes, I think so. I have thought about it at some length last night and can't think of any instance, going back as far as I can remember, where I wasn't.

Never believed in God, even as a child. Never bought a lottery ticket, because odds of a major win are essentially zero.

If you would give me examples of where you were irrational, I can tell you if I have ever done any such thing.

puzi Sat 02-Feb-13 10:20:54

Cote, I was a little perplexed by what you meant when requesting an example of 'proof'. My degree is proof enough that I think scientifically, not proof there is a god. I was giving an example of the way I think, I thought that was what you requested. I don't think one small example like the one I have given is enough to base my whole faith on.

puzi Sat 02-Feb-13 10:35:43

Madonna, no I am not a member of a Creation Science. To be honest, I haven't entered into a discussion like this for a long, long time...

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:38:49

puzi - Sorry if I have misunderstood. I thought you were saying that you have proof of God, presumably gleaned through your biochemistry studies.

Your biochemistry degree is not proof that you think scientifically, I'm afraid, but proof that you learned what you were taught well enough to pass exams.

My mum has a medical degree and is the least scientific-minded person I know. She can tell you all you want to know about drug interactions and chemical reactions, but emotions rather than rational calculations determine her actions and she is a fan of "emotional intelligence".

I don't know you well enough to say you don't think scientifically (maybe you do, maybe you don't) but just that your biochemistry degree does not mean you must be thinking scientifically all the time.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 10:45:55

What would somebody be like who was thinking scientifically all the time? Would this even be possible?

PeachTown Sat 02-Feb-13 10:47:26

Fear, laziness and conditioning have nothing to do with why I believe (Christian). I found out that what the Bible says is true as an adult. I would say that I've experienced God's presence, hear him speak to me constantly via the Bible/prayer/people/circumstances/just about anything you can imagine and had countless prayers answered. I'm not saying for a minute that I have the answers to everything or that I don't question things all the time.

A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument - I absolutely KNOW. I can't prove it to you with hard evidence but I know.

I don't think followers of other religions are mad but I think they are following the wrong path. If I didn't I'd be a Muslim/Hindu/whatever too. I believe we should live and let live though and that, rather than pretending we think all religions are right, to me is true tolerance - I also accept that they believe I'm wrong about this and that's fine.

It does annoy me that a lot of the threads I read from atheists on here presume we're all weak and stupid but I guess I have to extend tolerance to those beliefs too.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:48:23

Of course it is possible.

Thinking scientifically when looking at lab results, but also thinking scientifically when looking at the question of "Is there a God?".

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 10:51:50

Peach - I don't think believers are all weak and stupid. Some very smart and otherwise rational friends are devoutly religious. I don't think they are weak and stupid. I do think that they have been taught about their religion at an age where they just accepted it all because they weren't capable of questioning it.

I do get what you mean by "live and let live". I don't go around telling friends in RL what I think about their God and religion(s). I do here because that is the point of MN in general and these religion threads in particular.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 10:57:29

This isn't an argument for the 'God of the gaps', which I think is completely inadequate. But,Cote, your post makes me want to say something about the limits and inadequacies of science.

Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely not anti-science. I am married to a philosopher of science.

But science is just no good at addressing certain kinds of questions, such as 'why is Bach a musical genius - and how did he write, why did he write such amazing music?' 'Why do beautiful things sometimes make us cry?' 'How can I be good?' 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' 'What is right and what is wrong?'. These are just examples, and there are many more. Science just isn't any good at answering questions like these - when certain proponents of science try to, the answers they give are at best simplistic.

Science is amazing. But it isn't enough.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Feb-13 11:02:00

There are of course the big noticeable irrationalities such as my phobia, falling in love and the fact that I smoke. Then there are middling irrationalities like why did I stay in that job that I hated. And then there are the little ones like why do I buy branded items instead of value ones, why do I sometimes stay up late when I know that it will impact me the following day, why did something that has nothing to do with me and no impact on my life cause me to get angry, why do I really like one person and really dislike another.

I do probably think about the role of genes, nurture and defense mechanisms in our decisions and reactions more than the average person.blush

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 11:03:05

Niminy. When you say science isn't enough, enough in what way?

Snorbs Sat 02-Feb-13 11:13:58

...to love their neighbour as themselves. That we take these values for granted has everything to do with the historical legacy of Christianity, and without that legacy we would not have them, because such values were unknown in the classical world before Christianity.

Nice sentiment but far from true. Altruism was not invented by Jesus. Caring for others is not something that only started in the middle east in 1AD. "Treat others as you would want to be treated" is a principle that is far older than Christianity.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 11:17:37

I agree with you that science can't answer everything yet. There are questions we can't answer at the time being, but we answer so much more than before and have no reason to believe that we won't be able to answer those in the future.

re Bach - This is actually a topic I have spent some time researching. I love Bach's music, to the point that it invades my mind if I listen (or play) too much of it and I end up not being able to concentrate on much else or even sleep because melodies are turning around in my head.

However, I don't really like any other classical music. Some Vivaldi is great, but not all. And some of their Baroque contemporaries are OK, but not great.

Why?

I have come to the conclusion that Bach's uniquely mathematical style fits in with the way my mind works. Mozart was obviously a genius, and came up with some great melodies, but his style doesn't "fit" me in the same way.

There are people whose minds fit better with other types of music, and those don't necessarily like Bach. So I don't think you can ask "How did he write such amazing music?" because not everyone will say his music was singularly amazing.

Interestingly, I also feel so strongly about progressive techno & trance, which are also very mathematical and use some of the same permutations that Bach does.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 11:21:53

Snorts, indeed. But before Christians, no one had thought to make it the central principle of ethics. Show me the hospitals elsewhere in the ancient world which treated everyone regardless of their sex or status. The things that Christianity did that was revolutionary was a) to say that people should not just care for other people, but that they should love people as themselves, and that should be all other people, for all people are equally loved by God. Those principles were unknown before Christinity.

HeadinHands, enough -- for example -- to answer the questions I posed in my post.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Feb-13 11:25:43

If there were no hospitals before 1 AD, that has hardly to do with the wonderful feelings of altruism that Christianity "invented" (you seem to think). More to do with the socioeconomic conditions in which people lived at the time, I would think.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember any all-encompassing sharing-the-love kind of hospitals and charities during the feudal period of Europe when Christianity was very dominant.

PeachTown Sat 02-Feb-13 11:27:39

Hi Cote, I wasn't saying I'm offended by the reasonable arguments on the boards or by atheist beliefs but thanks for replying. I just find it hard to swallow when I read OPs like this one, which could be summarised 'it's obvious God doesn't exist so why are you all so stupid?'or when someone posts a genuine question and then others post 'why worry it's all bullshit ha ha' type responses. The equivalent would be me shouting 'you're all damned to hell!' wouldn't it? I can imagine that going down a storm.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 11:44:05

Cote, you are wrong there, I'm afraid. The establishment of hospitals was everything to do with Christianity, and the medieval period was distinguished by the spread of hospitals, schools and charities, all of them run by, um, Christians.

Your thoughts about Bach are very interesting. But that is not a scientific answer to the question, not least because mathematics is not the same as science.

To follow up on Peach's post at 10.47 about experience trumping argument, I think that is essentially true as far as having faith goes. I believe because of my experience of God, not because I was convinced by argument. (Although it would be impossible for me to believe in something I couldn't also give reasoned assent to.) It seems to me that experience does pose a problem in these kinds of discussions, because it is impossible to gainsay.

I have direct experience of God, experience that I cannot find a more satisfactory explanation for. You might contend that this is hallucination, or disturbance of the brain, or optical illusion, or wishful thinking. But you cannot know that, because you cannot share my experience. You can interpret my description of it, but you cannot say that it is not what I believe it to have been.

If I say that I have experience of God, there are four possibilities: I am mistaken, or I am mad, or I am lying, or I am telling the truth. You may think the last cannot possibly be the case, but it is just as likely as the others, and you cannot say for certain that it is not the case.

And what are we to say about all the accounts people have left us of their encounters with God? How could we say for certain that they are not telling the truth?

(Btw, Snorbs, I apologise for calling you Snorts - it was the damn autocorrect)

sieglinde Sat 02-Feb-13 11:51:09

Pedropony...and Yourhand

I am willing to bet you believe in many things for which you have no hard evidence, as you call it. If you take a look at recent cosmology, you will see how very frangible evidence for the materiality of the universe really is. Maybe take a look at The Science Delusion, if you are really interested in thinking through the complexities.

Do you for instance believe in the following - maternal love, true love between partners, the capacity of animals with only small cortices to experience life more-or-less as we do, the apprehension of natural beauty? All are quite hard to explain in materialism.

I see God as the ineffable, the unknowable, even the absent. Why should there be hard evidence for him?

As for the defects of religion - sectarianism and the like - agree, but most are reduplicated in ANY endeavour with mass human involvement, such as communist politics, nationalism, and racial theory. Those ideas in militantly secular mode have been and are used to justify all kinds of terrible acts. Just look at China.

ethelb Sat 02-Feb-13 12:00:05

@cote 100% rational?
Never smoked?
Never had unprotected sex?
Never fantasised about spending your life with somone?
Never drank too much?
Never eaten more than you need?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 12:01:00

Ah sorry. Was trying to read deeper element to it. What about people who answers those questions either without god, or don't care about the answers anyway?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 12:14:11

HeadinHands -- the point is not that are questions that can only be answered with reference to God, but they are questions that can't be answered adequately by science.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 12:15:28

Niminy, I have direct experience of an invisible unicorn that sometimes comes out of my wardrobe. How likely is it that I am telling you the truth and not that I am mistaken? Aren't the odds of me being mistaken HUGE based on rational thinking? So huge that you can satisfactorily disregard the idea of an actual unicorn off the bat.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 12:27:03

peach if you shouted 'you're all going to hell' I'd probably ask you how you knew etc. I wouldn't be offended but would relish the ensuing discussion. grin

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Feb-13 12:27:11

Ellie if you really think that all religion amounts to is God made the world because this book of bronze age babble says it did then your understanding of religion is so limited that it could barely be considered understanding at all.

Is that why you come here? To try to learn more?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 12:28:23

I would have to make the decision based on various factors wouldn't I, such as:

Are you in general a sane person? Are you in general a truthful person? (Obviously I can't know about this, since you are a stranger on the internet.) Does this experience tally at all with what I know about the world (ie is it possible, in the light I of what I know about the world, that an invisible unicorn could come out of your wardrobe?), and have any other people ever had this experience (is it repeatable). One of the things that distinguishes examples such as yours and experiences of the divine is that lots of people have had experience of the divine and have left accounts of such.

Now, I can't know about some of those factors, for reasons outlined above, but I think I would have to say that on balance, that the unicorn is unlikely.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 12:29:36

To the theists. Do you think the instinct to care for and protect our offspring is something god put in us/gave us?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 12:30:15

But that is not, in itself, an argument that experiences of the divine cannot have happened .

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 12:35:29

So following your thought pattern Niminy, if other people have had the same experience then it's more likely to be kosher. So people who have had experiences of different deities, and that's quite a lot, are also telling the truth, along with alien abductions and so on? How can they all be right?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 12:36:56

Actually there's as much evidence for my unicorn as there is your god.

Ninjaforever Sat 02-Feb-13 12:38:15

Lol this kind of deep thinking thread requires proper attention. My bad.
I'm usually posting from phone whilst bfing - not the best time to 'spread the msg' esp in a rush hence the awful wording and totally not getting my point across . * apologises for representing Islam so poorly*

Cote you are right - never should have worded it as the whole point of Islam der on my part. But dawah ( spreading the msg ) is an important part of it.

ethelb Sat 02-Feb-13 12:42:02

@HEAD no I don't think it is god given. i think it is part of being human. I don't se the two as incompatible if humans were made in the image of god.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 12:47:48

So it just happened to develop in us after creation?

ethelb Sat 02-Feb-13 12:55:27

I don't know. There's very little research into behavioural genetics and evolution that is conclusive.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 13:02:23

HeadinHands no there is more, because of the weight of testimony. As far as I know yours is the only testimony to your unicorn, and I have no way of assessing your truthfulness or sanity.

As we know, and as I am only too ready to admit, there is no proof that God exists. But there is no proof that he doesn't, either. We'll get nowhere fast down that particular rabbit-hole.

So we have to look at the balance of probability, and assess that by looking at factors such as reliability of witnesses, weight of testimony, corroborating factors.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 13:03:41

I press the issue because I have seen the parental nurturing instinct citied by theists on this thread alone two or 3 times now. I'm trying to fully understand how it relates to the existence of god as far as a theist may be concerned.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 13:09:18

Niminy, again your reasoning validates almost all beliefs, not just yours. Using your own tools of discernment you should also be a Muslim, a Hindu, believe in Zeus, ufos, ghosts, fairies and any other phenomenon that has had at least a handful of witnesses. How can you disregard their testimony?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 13:14:36

Anyway the whole 'loads of people believe It so it must be true' line is such a well known false argument it has it's own name. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

ethelb Sat 02-Feb-13 13:22:11

@head I have a long and complex theological education but have never heard that cited as a reason for the existance of god before.

How odd!

sieglinde Sat 02-Feb-13 13:22:14

Headinhands, my citation of it (maternal feelings) is to do with the idea that most of what we do and say and believe is not rational. I think niminy's point is the same.

Can you explain why you keep citing the beliefs of very small minorities? Is it to say the same thing - i.e. that people's actions are not entirely determined by reason?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 13:43:12

Ethe I'm probably getting it wrong then. The last two incidents aren't much further down this thread. Maybe you would have a look, you might know why it's been mentioned 3 times now?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 13:50:47

I mentioned the child abuse as I thought the paternal instinct was being used as an example of something put in humans from god. I now see it was being used as an example of behaviour that is seemingly irrational. I still don't see that irrational behaviour is any evidence for god but as you can see I don't always pick up quickly on things.

dawntigga Sat 02-Feb-13 13:59:23

I admit to not reading the thread due to lack of time but, what has it got to do with anyone? I don't ask anyone to share my beliefs and don't really care what others believe as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of anyone else. If you choose to believe in the Church of the Chocolate Bunny then go right ahead as long as you don't for one second try to convert me or refuse others rights based on the teachings of the Chocolate Bunny.

The Church of the Chocolate Bunny I believe installs a small purple unicorn in your garden when you are baptised in the chocolate fountain.

PaganAndProudTiggaxx

NotDavidTennant Sat 02-Feb-13 14:00:00

As a non-believing scientist, this thread has really made me realise that their must be some kind of genetic predisposition for belief in a supernatural being (or beings) or some kind of higher power or plane of existence. Some people just seem to have faith regardless of whether it can be rationally justified, and in fact some even admit that their belief is not based in evidence but a kind of inner feeling that they have. And equally there are some people who are raised in a religious background and exposed to religion all their life and just never get faith.

To me, these facts really strongly point to the idea that there is some genetic predisposition towards religious belief that varies between people, in the same way that there are almost certainly genetic predispositions to things like extraversion and empathy which also vary across the human population. Possible thus is why 'true' believers and 'true' non-believers have difficulty understanding each other on this issue. Maybe the personal psychologies involved are just mutually incomprehensible.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 14:00:03

Interesting that many theists admit a need to be irrational to accept the existance of god. Doesn't that requirement preclude certain types from belief?

DandyDan Sat 02-Feb-13 14:02:53

I agree with both niminy and sieglinde's points about how our lives are, in many ways, mostly predicated on non-rational (but not irrational) things.

I am also thinking about the "experience of God" and how it is experienced. It might be contended that it's "just chemicals in the brain", but I don't think there is anything "just" about that. We are creatures of flesh and chemical signals, so it seems obvious to me that of course, naturally, our experience of God is going to be mediated through that, and not through something completely "other" that we can't identify yet. We experience life through our bodies, so it seems obvious that we would experience God through our bodies (how else would we experience God?). This doesn't negate the experience. We also experience love and beauty and creativity through the natural human processes of our bodies, brains and minds but non-theists don't dismiss these experiences because they have arisen out of our physiology.

In the end, the things that seem to be most important to people in life - generally speaking - are not the rational things that we know and can prove but the non-rational: the emotional lives of people - those whom they love - humans and pets -, the music they choose to listen to or books they are stimulated or moved by, the places they cherish, the beauty they find in things, their pleasure in developing a skill (whether in music, or art, or sport or craftwork etc). Even if it were "proved" that preferring Bach to Vivaldi conferred some distinct evolutionary advantage, how does it explain the creativity, the very idea of "liking" something having meaning in our lives? If emotions and "experiences" are capable of being dismissed because they are "just" chemical processes in our brain and nothing more, then how does any non-theist actually 'believe' in them at all? Surely they are meaningless processes, like any other in the universe, and not to be trusted?

Is it a kind of self-deception or trick? - that a person might rationally assert that emotions are all just a set of chemical and electrical signals, designed to confer some theoretical advantage, whilst simultaneously subscribing every day to what those emotions tell us. If love is just chemicals, does the phrase "I love my wife" have any meaning beyond the chemicals?

Non-theists presumably consider there is no meaning in anything in the universe? In fact, that "meaning" doesn't exist at all? There is no purpose to anything? What I find interesting is that this would mean that all of human endeavour, relationships, creativity, is also ultimately meaningless and a basic trick of human physiology; it would mean that humans basically pretend all of the above "non-rational" qualities actually "mean something" so that they can deliver our genes effectively to the next generation.

If there is no Meaning in the universe and nothing beyond the material, then how does a person find meaning and why should they?

eg. a non-theist might posit, "I know that scientifically the "feelings of love" I have for my wife are actually just random firings of chemicals and electrical signals and "mean" nothing ultimately, physically, other than a slight evolutionary advantage for pair-bonding and longer survival, but I'm going to live as if "love for my wife" actually means what it says on the tin, that the emotions are not just a vehicle for survival but important and meaningful in their own right, and will involve all kinds of non-rational things like loving visiting art galleries together or watching a film together, or helping her with her craft project or visiting my old school friend together, or writing a poem for her". In the end, how does a person live thinking that "love" and every loving transaction, creativity and every creative endeavour, is nothing more than merely a tool for survival?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 14:05:01

Dawn I suppose that's the problem in a nutshell. My ds attends a state primary and sometimes comes home singing songs about god etc. I think the law says schools need to allot a certain amount of time to worship but how it's interpreted varies widely.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 14:06:17

I don't think I said that an argumentum ad populum was the sole basis on which you should believe someone, did I? I said there were four factors, of which the weight of testimony was one.

And, of course, in terms of historical events, the weight of testimony is very important indeed, though not the only factor, because the testimony still has to be assessed against the other factors (truthfulness of the speaker, sanity, likelihood, and so on).

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 14:15:22

DandyDan yes, your last point reminds me of a conversation I had with someone who believed there is no free will, and that we are simply determined by our genes and by chemical reactions in our brains. To that the only answer is that if we act as if we had free will (and actually there is no other way to act), then to all intents and purposes we do have it.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 14:19:33

Hi Dan, welcome smile

I'm personally very grateful to the way evolution has conferred me with these chemical responses! Just because I think they developed in a different way doesn't make them any less powerful.

What meaning does my life have? I suppose it's ultimately the meaning I have given to it myself. To learn, to develop, to nurture my family and wider community etc.

I still find beauty and awe in life, especially looking at the moons of Jupiter even though I don't accept, or have gone on to reject any of the religious claims made.

On the face of it my life is very similar to yours I imagine.

Wrt to saying 'I love my wife' and how empty a phrase it may seem if one purports it to be mere chemistry, as far as I am aware divorce stats for Christians are the same, maybe even higher for those who profess themselves to be as such so can't see that viewing it in supernatural terms makes it anymore powerful?

DandyDan Sat 02-Feb-13 14:21:08

Yes, exactly.
This also reminds me of Puddleglum's statement in The Silver Chair: that there may well be no world with a sun above the Queen's realm, but he is going to live as if it is true.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 14:22:46

So Niminy, groups of people who testify to experiencing other phenomenon, you know they're, by and large, not as sane as Christians?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 14:24:31

Sanity, likelihood, truthfulness. These are lacking in other religions and other widespread beliefs such as astrology etc?

DandyDan Sat 02-Feb-13 14:28:47

Of course non-theists and theists alike have problematical marriages but "power" of that love is nothing to do with what I was saying. I want to know why "love" as an emotion means anything to a person who asserts there is no meaning in the universe and that love is just a set of chemical responses.

Non-theists and theists alike will "love" people and enjoy beauty and awe - of course, because we are all humans alike - but doesn't it imply that for the non-theist who thinks there is nothing "real" beyond the material universe, that they are attributing meaning where actually intellectually they "really" believe there is none.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 14:45:08

You probably have to spell it out more succinctly for me Dan. If you mean what I think you mean it's a bit like pets. No deep meaningful reason to have a pet beyond it being 'nice' to have one.

Don't get me wrong, it would amazing if we were all created by a loving benevolent god who watched over us but the reality is way way way different to that. So far there is nothing to substantiate any of the supernatural claims any of the religions make. So I have no choice but to get on with my short time on earth and try not to piss off too many people at the same time endeavouring to be kind because it makes for a better life.

ethelb Sat 02-Feb-13 14:46:00

I wasnt accusing you of lying head. I just hadnt heard it before now.

SerenityX Sat 02-Feb-13 14:47:57

LOL can't believe I just posted this another thread...

Science may have the answer.

bigthink.com/users/andrewnewberg

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Feb-13 14:50:55

Headinhands re. your invisible unicorn. The fact that you stated it on this thread (and we are all strangers) leads me to believe that it didn't happen and that you are using it to make the point that your invisible unicorn, like god doesn't exist.

If we were friend's in real life and you called me up and told me your invisible unicorn experience, I would have to apply my knowledge of you as a person. I think the first question to you would be if it is invisible, how do you know it is a unicorn?

Re. Your assertion that many theists admit a need to be irrational to accept the existence of god, the fact is that we are irrational. You, me, everyone.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Feb-13 14:56:32

Or perhaps non-rational (as per Dandydan) would be a better phrase than irrational.

DandyDan Sat 02-Feb-13 14:57:36

I would suggest we are beings capable of of rationality and non-rationality, each of which has its rightful place in us, rather than the term "irrational".

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 15:06:10

I know it's a unicorn because it told me it was! grin

DandyDan Sat 02-Feb-13 15:09:10

So... a non-theist can "enjoy" awe and beauty and creativity and love - non-rational, non-materialist qualities - which emerge out of the phsyiology of the human brain, and live lives as though these things are 'real' and 'matter' (even though in a meaningless universe, they only 'exist' to further the perpetuation of our particular genotype).

But somehow non-theists maintain a theist cannot really possess "a sense of God/the divine/the numinous" - a non-materialist quality - which emerges out of the physiology of the human brain (because that is the only way in which a human can experience anything) and live lives as though these things are real and matter?

For me, these aspects of our natures are all not simply adjuncts to some meaningless purposeless universe - they all have meaning and purpose and validity which exist alongside and also beyond their function in the development of our humanity.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 15:10:02

Dione, how do you know if other peoples claims of supernatural experiences are false wether they be mistaken etc?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 15:19:43

I don't doubt the strength of feeling/experience theists have for their chosen belief system. Im not saying 'you're not really having those feelings'. My thoughts are that they originate in the brain, which is an idea backed up, I feel, by the amount of different faiths there are and how they all feel it acutely. Can they all be right?

I've also had strong emotional responses in and outside of religion so see how my own brain has created similarly profound sensations. Nothing stands out as being beyond our own wonderful synapses firing off.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Feb-13 15:22:37

Ah, so you heard it. I would probably ask you to tell me about the experience, then I would come over and check you and your wardrobe out. There could be a logical explanation. In fact I would expect to find one given that we are dealing with a physical sense. In the absence of an easily found logical explanation, I would accept that something strange happened to you. And so long as you didn't expect me to stock my wardrobe with diamond carrots it wouldn't really make any difference to my life.

Similarly there could be a logical explanation for faith. We just haven't found it yet.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 02-Feb-13 15:40:52

That's a really interesting question Headinhands. I suppose the answer is given that there is a lack of proof I would focus on what the experience meant to the person having it.

Your point regarding strong feelings for a theist's chosen belief system and different faiths I think is more to do with religions which are societal constructs than faith, which is unique to the individual.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 15:42:54

No it's not a physical unicorn, it's made of different stuff to everything else.

DandyDan Sat 02-Feb-13 16:02:23

The "belief in God" or "experience of God" does come from a brain - naturally, it does. Like the feelings that say "I love that piece of music" or "I love my wife to bits". It makes sense that many many people across time and geography acknowledge a sense of God or experience of this, just like many thousands believe profoundly and utterly in the love they have for their partners (and actually live their lives according to that love). "Can they all be right?" - well, they can all be experiencing a sense of there being a God/something divine in the nature of the universe, yes.

Does a non-theist believe their own self when they say they love their partner or do they actually think they are tricking themselves with a bit of meaningless synapse-firing so that their physical body can pass on its genes?

It just seems that the non-theist position has to include self-pretence: "wonderful synapses" aren't wonderful. Synapses are physically doing what they're programmed to do in a meaningless universe. A human sense of "wonder" at synapses (or even at our capability of knowing about them or understanding them, or our wonder at mountain ranges or rainbows etc) is surely actually just another set of "synapses" creating a sensation of wonder which is in itself meaningless. (In fact I’m not sure about the evolutionary argument for the “purpose” of “awe and wonder” but I imagine a non-theist scientist with a propensity for evolutionary psychology will be along to explain it any moment.)

Offline work and responsibility now calls...

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 16:27:04

Why would some not have this sense if it's so pervasive? If all people of these varying faiths are feeling a sense of the same god wouldn't it make sense for him to use that connection to say 'hey, you all just believe in the same god and I'm Allah\Yahweh\krishna/previously unknown god or whatever so chill out and stop knocking the crap out of eachother.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 16:49:11

If we summise that our ability to appreciate beauty is evidence for god how would we know what god was responsible seeing as man has already worshiped thousands of gods in our history. How did you decide your god was 'the god' as opposed to the others?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 17:36:34

Because, HeadinHands, there's only one God. It's not like I looked at all available gods and decided he had the edge. There's only one to choose from. I think he's the God that Muslims, Hindus, and everybody else is worshipping under the names they have for him. All faiths have glimpses of the truth of God. But perhaps it's truest to say that is all they have, because we're trying to see something that transcends all that is human with only our human-ness (amazing as this is) to do it with. For me, Christianity has the truest, most complete glimpse we have of God, but all faiths see him.

DandyDan Sat 02-Feb-13 17:44:17

Thank you for this, niminy. It expresses what I believe too.

sieglinde Sat 02-Feb-13 17:46:20

Well said, niminy. We see him in all faiths, though he is one. If I had grown up in a Moslem or a Buddhist or a Jewish culture I might well be those things.

Going back a bit... Headinhands wrote

"Wrt to saying 'I love my wife' and how empty a phrase it may seem if one purports it to be mere chemistry, as far as I am aware divorce stats for Christians are the same, maybe even higher for those who profess themselves to be as such so can't see that viewing it in supernatural terms makes it anymore powerful?"

Missing my point. I didn't say that loving your partner or children was particularly christian.

What I do say is that it's not entirely rational. Nor is awe about the moons of Jupiter, or tonight's sunset - we had a beauty... And nor is belief in God... A lot of all our lives, including some of the best parts of them, are lived on this level. Nobody is 100 percent reason.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 18:07:41

I've never said on this thread that I'm never irrational?

So it's all the same god? Again why doesn't he tell them. Why did he write different books with different laws? Why did Jesus say he was 'the way and that no one comes to the father 'but through him. Isn't that just wantonly confusing people?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 18:34:30

So this one god who has many routes. What does he require from us, can he do anything for us? Why does god of the bible get worked up about people worshiping other gods if they're still just worshipping him to the point he's ordering genocide?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 18:51:25

God didn't write the books: we did. See what I posted about 'we are trying to see something that transcends all that is human with only our human-ness to do it with?'. The OT tells the extraordinary story of how the Israelites came to understand that God is the one God, the God of Everything. They understood everything that had happened to them in the light of this developing revelation.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 19:10:47

You say it transcends our understanding yet claim to have that understanding, a lot more than the millions of Christians/Muslims etc who currently do not feel the same way.

What do you feel god wants from humankind? What can he do? How do you know what you know?

NotDavidTennant Sat 02-Feb-13 19:15:19

"Does a non-theist believe their own self when they say they love their partner or do they actually think they are tricking themselves with a bit of meaningless synapse-firing so that their physical body can pass on its genes?"

I'm not sure what it actually means to be 'tricked' here. As far as I'm concerned I am my genes, synapes, etc. There is no separate 'me' to trick.

"It just seems that the non-theist position has to include self-pretence: "wonderful synapses" aren't wonderful. Synapses are physically doing what they're programmed to do in a meaningless universe. A human sense of "wonder" at synapses (or even at our capability of knowing about them or understanding them, or our wonder at mountain ranges or rainbows etc) is surely actually just another set of "synapses" creating a sensation of wonder which is in itself meaningless."

Well (again, as far as I'm concerned) all feelings of wonder are just synaptic activity. It's only 'self-pretence' if you think that there is some other kind of wonder that doesn't involve synaptic activity that the synapses are tricking me into thinking I'm feeling. And of course its not meaningless to me because (gross over-simplification alert) my synapses for feelings of wonder are connected to my synapses for experiencing meaning and so one automatically proceeds to the other. Again, there's no separate 'me' who sits above it all and can choose not to feel wonder, or not to feel love when I see my DW or pleasure at hearing a piece of music I like, etc. It's a false dichotomy.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 20:18:47

What does God want from humankind? He wants us to love him, as he loves us.
What can he do? Keep the cosmos in being. How do you know what you know? By applying reason to experience.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:23:28

How do you know he loves you Niminy?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:25:19

How do you love him back Niminy?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:25:51

What happens if you don't love him?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 20:29:53

How do you love anyone? I know he loves me - that's part of the experience I have of him. What happens if I don't love him? He is sad. But he keeps on loving. That's who he is.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:32:52

Good question. I communicate with them. Do things for them. Hug them a lot! Not sure if that is an entirely apt analogy though because I can see the people I love.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 20:33:23

How do I love God? By spending time with him -- which is principally what prayer is about. By trying to do the things he would want me to do, and be the person he wants me to be.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:33:56

So it's just a feeling you have of him loving you?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:34:38

How do you know what he wants you to do?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:35:34

Why does he need us to love him?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:36:10

Is he doing anything else other than loving us and wanting to be loved?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 20:37:13

So there's nothing nasty afoot for people who don't love him back? Now or later?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 20:51:16

1. When you know that someone loves you, it helps you to live your life differently, because you live it in thqt knowlege.
2. I listen to him, through prayer.
3. God doesn't need anything from us. He is complete in himself. He made everything there is out of love.
4. No, because that encompasses all his act of creation, guidance and salvation. 5. People who turn away from God are without God, for ever, utterly.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 20:54:38

Added to 5: But that is between them and God. It is not for me to know who has turned away, and what has happened as a consequence. That is their story, not mine.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 21:10:41

Other than the praying Niminy how is your life going to be different from mine?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 21:23:27

Tell me what your life is like smile!

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 21:32:48

But seriously, it is the praying that makes the difference.

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 21:54:06

How do you feel you have handled something particularly differently to average non-theist Joe because of your relationship with god?

headinhands Sat 02-Feb-13 21:55:11

You say you listen to him. So he communicates back to you? Why does he communicate conflicting messages to other theists?

niminypiminy Sat 02-Feb-13 22:11:56

I don't know. I'm not saying i've got all the right answers. I try to listen carefully. I try to live my life in the light of that listening. Some of the time, hell, most of the time, I don't 'hear' anything in particular, or indeed anything at all. But when I do, it changes everything.

IndigoBarbie Sat 02-Feb-13 23:17:49

Where for art thou, Pedro? How does one justify to themselves belief in a supernatural being with literally no hard evidence?
A supernatural being, huh? How about we are all supernatural beings, placed into bodies - and therefore, no evidence is required, as we just know deep in our hearts? smile
No matter what we are, who we are or where we are - we are all coming here by the same manner, and all leaving here at some point too. Remembering that, and knowing that we are all made of the same stuff (whether we choose to display it or not), can go such a long way. Instead of seeing the seeming differences due to skin colour, beliefs of whatever, rich or poor, fat or slim etc etc etc
For all the experiences I've had of these 'supernatural' beings (the ones without a physical body at the moment), I could never ever prove it to anyone, and nor should I have to. We are quite possibly experiencing our own 'realities' anyway, so what's real for me might not necessarily be real or believable to anyone else. It doesn't shake me though, live and let live, just the way you are ;) With love xxx

cloutiedumpling Sun 03-Feb-13 00:43:55

Niminy - I don't know much about people who have actively turned away from God. Is that different from people who have wandered away from God? How does that fit with the parable of the lost sheep?

headinhands Sun 03-Feb-13 10:06:33

Sorry Indigo but I need a bit more than your say so before I can believe what you say. 'Feeling it in your heart' is nice for you but I don't have such feelings. And if I accept your claim on the strength of your emotions about it I then have to accept other people who feel strongly about their beliefs and it all gets a bit silly and meaningless doesn't it.

IndigoBarbie Sun 03-Feb-13 11:55:12

In all honesty, my take on this is that we each come to earth with one thing: ourselves. Our own bodies. What better mechanism can you use to discern what is good or bad in your life?
Ever had the heebie jeebies when you looked at someone? Why would that be then? This is the strength of emotions part, what you 'feel' in your heart. Or whereever else in your body you get your intuitive hunches or knowings from.

Headinhands - Is it just that you don't believe anything anyone else says when it comes to this stuff, or is it more of a 'have to have concrete and scientific proof' kind of thing? Yes of course you need a bit more than my say so, because my 'say so' is for me only. How could it ever be for anyone else? I could never prove any of my own experiences to anyone else, but I can tell people about them. That is all. I don't expect for anyone to believe anything I say, at all. Nor am I am here to convince anyone that what I say is 'right', that would just be crazy.
Yes, and as you say - it really is a bit pointless - I only post up here to offer some of my experiences in my life, just as others do theirs. I am not here to argue with anyone. It does get a bit wearing getting bashed online and thankfully not too much on here ;), but that's just how it is. smile

headinhands Sun 03-Feb-13 12:15:29

I didn't mean you sharing was pointless, I meant if I accept what people suggest based on the strength of their emotion. I then have to accept all the impassioned views put forth of which many are diametrically opposed. I find being here thought provoking at times and I like that. I'm guessing most of us here like that too which is why we come back for more of the same 'ol same 'ol.

I don't hold much stock with this gut reaction thing. You only have to read the news to see it's not a reliable phenomenon. I'm guessing supposed gut reactions to people are more an interplay of memories/subtle prejudices rather than anything pre-loaded into our brains.

CoteDAzur Sun 03-Feb-13 18:56:13

Thread has moved on, but I'd like to respond to a few things:

ethelb - re "@cote 100% rational? Never smoked? Never had unprotected sex?Never fantasised about spending your life with somone? Never drank too much? Never eaten more than you need?"

"Risky" doesn't equal "irrational". None of the above are evidence of an irrational person.

People have different Risk Preferences and they rationally perform their own Risk-Benefit Analyses. I did quite a few things you would maybe think of as very risky (mountaineering, windsurfing, bungee jumping) but those were decisions I took rationally and after performing safety checks and considering risks vs the pleasure/benefits I expected out of them.

The opposite of acting rationally is acting without due thought, purely on an emotional level or "just because".

TheFallenNinja Sun 03-Feb-13 18:57:35

Discuss!! Don't you mean counter argue your position?

Yawn

CoteDAzur Sun 03-Feb-13 19:23:51

niminypiminy - re "Your thoughts about Bach are very interesting. But that is not a scientific answer to the question"

I wasn't trying to give you a scientific answer re "Why is Bach's music is so good?" but pointing out that there are interesting paths of inquiry as to why some people (ex: those with Asperger's Syndrome) find it incredibly good and others don't. I actually said in the post you reply to that science may not have all the answers now but there is no reason to believe that it won't one day soon.

And I am saying that because you said "science is just no good at addressing certain kinds of questions, such as 'why is Bach a musical genius - and how did he write, why did he write such amazing music?'"

"I believe because of my experience of God, not because I was convinced by argument. (Although it would be impossible for me to believe in something I couldn't also give reasoned assent to.)"

What is your reasoning, then? Please share.

"It seems to me that experience does pose a problem in these kinds of discussions, because it is impossible to gainsay."

Experience is great. I'd love to hear about it and it could possibly be convincing, as well. But not the kind of "experience" that goes "... and then I felt God's love in my heart".

"If I say that I have experience of God, there are four possibilities: I am mistaken, or I am mad, or I am lying, or I am telling the truth."

There is at least one other possibility: You are telling the truth and you are mistaken. That is, you think you had a divine experience but it was just your brain playing tricks on you.

This is more common than you would think and it does not mean that you are mad. I recently read a book called My Stroke Of Insight, written by a brain scientist who survived a stroke, who tells in meticulous detail how it felt to have parts of her brain shut down. It all starts with an incredibly powerful experience of peace and love, and being one with the universe. Happiness, and a feeling of being touched by God.

I am not saying you had a stroke, obviously. Just pointing out that people have transient "experiences" in their heads that feel very real but aren't actually caused by a deity.

"And what are we to say about all the accounts people have left us of their encounters with God?"

Which people? And which "encounters"?

niminypiminy Sun 03-Feb-13 20:40:52

Phew, Cote, thqat's a bit of a monster post for me to answer. I'll do my best.

1. Science is really not going to have all the answers - not any time soon, and not ever. Science just isn't interested in certain kinds of questions, and it doesn't have the right tools to answer them. It's really not dissing science to say that there are other ways of investigating and seeking to know the world which are equally good at helping us to understand the human condition.

2. Having read a great deal I came to the conclusion that the evidence came down in favour of the truth of the resurrection. There are various books that were important in that journey, among them Rowan Williams's Tokens of Trust, which discusses the elements of the Nicene creed in a way that is accessible and informed by immense scholarship, worn very lightly.

3. I think I'd like to know what kind of experience you might find convincing. I hope you do underhand that I do not want to share some of the most profound moments of my life with a stranger on the Internet who might simply subject them to scorn and derision.

4. I might be telling the truth, and I might be mistaken. That's true. But I might not -- and you cannot, in your position, say with any authority whether I am mistaken. As DandyDan said in a post you appear to have missed, since I am my body, how would God communicate with me except through my brain? The explanation that I may have had a stroke would not rule out God having spoken to me. It is not either/or but both/and. How might you know that 'transient experiences' people have inside their heads are not caused by a deity?

5. You might start with the writings of the Desert Fathers, the Confession of st Augustine, and The Revelation of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich. Then you could move on to The Seventh Mountain by Thomas Merton, and The Story of a Soul by Therese of Lisieux, and The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum. Then you will have scratched the surface of the spiritual classics.

niminypiminy Sun 03-Feb-13 20:43:39

Ps. Sorry for typos - the damn auto-correct yet again

CoteDAzur Sun 03-Feb-13 21:58:56

1. I disagree, and you are miswording the issue. Science isn't interested in questions. People are interested in questions, and science is the name we have for the method we have to find out the answers. Not any particular science, perhaps, but the scientific method - formulate hypothesis, carry out experiments, observe results, see if they agree with hypothesis.

Which "other ways of investigating" are you referring to? I'm curious. (Navel-gazing not being a way of investigating, I hope we both agree)

2. What evidence is this that convinced you Jesus was resurrected? (Or are you saying that you are convinced everyone will be resurrected after death?)

3. If you don't feel like sharing your God "experience", why are you talking about it?

4. So we agree - your "experience" can very well be just in your head and not a real communication with a deity. And I'm not sure what you mean by "since I am my body, how would God communicate with me except through my brain?", especially without knowing what kind of communication we are talking about. A feeling of love and peace? A thundering voice in your head actually talking to you?

5. Let's be clear about one thing - I am not about to read 10 books because you count them off on a post. If you would like to say something, please write it in a post.

headinhands Sun 03-Feb-13 23:06:15

If you need to read 10 books to make something palatable why didn't god stick them on the end of the bible?

niminypiminy Sun 03-Feb-13 23:42:40

Don't have mental energy to take on all that tonight, but you did ask 'which people, which encounters' so I gave you a few examples of people who have left us their accounts of their encounters with God. A few, of very many indeed. You may not want to read them, and that's up to you. Your loss, because you might learn something.

HeadinHands, I thought we had already established that God did not write the Bible. <sigh>

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 04:22:33

Ah sorry, when you said you believed in the ressurection I thought you meant ^the* resurrection. You mean a general life after death thing? Why would you believe that?

sieglinde Mon 04-Feb-13 09:57:18

to headinhands - because He knew you probably wouldn't be arsed to read them? grin

I'm not a fundamentalist, so I don't think the NT for instance contains all truth; it doesn't contain any number of truths, but that doens't make it untrue.

Actually both science and religious truth evolve; people come to greater/different understandings, often involving some deletions of the past. So - say - Story of a Soul does contain some ideas not expressed fully in the NT, just as quantum doesn't entirely sync with relativity. That's all fine; it's as it should be. Human beings are made to seek, to search.

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 10:17:29

niminy - I actually read a lot and always have. But I am not about to read ten books about some strangers' feelings about their preferred deity.

I asked "what encounters?" and thought you would be able to say "This guy saw God move a mountain and had a conversation with him" or whatever. Not "Go read these ten books". That is not really an acceptable answer for any question, because I'm asking you and if you know the answer, surely you can summarise it in a few sentences rather than me spending the next six months reading those books.

"Your loss, because you might learn something."

I'm all for learning, and honestly, you will not meet many people who read as much as I do on diverse subjects such as quantum physics, astronomy, biology, etc because I love to learn.

I'm just a bit sceptical as to what sort of real knowledge (as opposed to author's opinion and feelings) I will get from dedicating the next 6 months of my life reading these many books about these people's thoughts on spirituality.

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 10:33:05

to headinhands - because He knew you probably wouldn't be arsed to read them?

I used to be a Christian and still have quite a few bibles kicking about. I can even recite all the names of the books of the OT and the NT in order and know quite a few verses off by heart. Do I pass? smile

I'm not sure that the scientific community works the same way as the religious one? I don't think the scientific one makes claims without any evidence even when evidence runs to the contrary. It's not a comparison that means anything. You may as well compare it to the world of cooking? And which religious community are you referring too? It's not like all the religions of the world are in one accord and work together to improve on theories?

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 11:00:34

I know this is a bit pedantic, but I only listed 6 titles. This suggests to me that you are not reading my posts very carefully. The books I suggested are first person accounts of lives spent encountering God. You would find, were you to read them, that the people who wrote them met God in all sorts of ways: though visions and revelations, through the scriptures, in the silence of prayer, in worship, in encounters with other people. God speaks to us in many different ways. 'This guy saw God move a mountain and had a conversation with him' is only one.

I agree that, in a shorthand way, I personalised science (that is, I talked as if science was a person rather than a collection of practices, which is a better description -- science is more than scientific method, indeed, much science doesn't use scientific method at all -- theoretical physics for example).

Science (or scientific method, if you like) is good at answering questions about what the world is like, but it is not good at answering second-order questions about the significance of what it finds out. The idea that it could do this was termed the 'naturalistic fallacy' by the philosopher GE Moore. This could be summarised as 'you cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is''. To do this, you need other methods of inquiry -- philosophy, the arts and humanities, social sciences, even, dare I say it, theology.

I came to believe Jesus rose from the dead because I can't see that any other explanation makes sense of what came after. The other possibilities are that the disciples hid the body and then told lies (why would they dedicate their lives, living in poverty and danger, courting exclusion from their community and even death, for something they knew was a lie?), or that they saw a vision and mistook it for reality (but why did so many people have this vision, not all at once, but in singly or in small groups, without knowing that he had appeared to other people?). When all the other explanations have been discounted as impossible, what remains must be the truth -- however improbable it seems.

As the Nicene Creed says, 'I look for the resurrection of the dead': I hope for it.

Experiences of God don't come very often. They might be very fleeting: a moment of awareness of his presence, the knowledge that you are loved, a brief vision of light in a time of great darkness. You might have only one in an entire lifetime -- in a recent programme Sister Wendy Beckett said that she had had only one -- but that experience is life-changing.

I suspect that what you mean by 'real knowledge' is something like 'empirical evidence'. But there are so many things that you cannot have 'real knowledge' about. You cannot have real knowledge of numbers, or abstractions like beauty or justice, you cannot have real knowledge of love, you cannot have real knowledge of hope, and you cannot have real knowledge of God -- if that is all you mean by 'real knowlege'. That seems to me to be an unnecessarily restrictive account of what it might mean to have knowledge of something, one which surely prevents you from knowing anything about the deepest questions of human life.

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 11:12:41

HeadinHands of course scientists make claims without any evidence, and when the evidence runs the other way. What is the evidence for wormholes, or string theory? The evidence is often contradictory, and sometimes the theories are too.

The history of science, if it is anything, is the history of wrong ideas. We cannot know that what appear today to be unalterable, self-evident truths, such as the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection will not in the future be found to be completely erroneous.

As Sieglinde said, scientific ideas have evolved, changed and developed in the light of developments in knowledge. So have many religions. (See what I did? Just as 'science' is not one thing, nor is 'religion'.) In particular, Christian theology has been profoundly shaped by biblical criticism and textual scholarship. One of the difference between them, however, is that scientist are generally not interested in the history of their discipline, whereas Christians of most persuasions are committed to a critical dialogue with their own history.

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 11:30:39

When all the other explanations have been discounted as impossible, what remains must be the truth -- however improbable it seems.

What about people of other faiths who faced death rather than relinquish their beliefs?
Many people witnessed Muhammed splitting the moon, how have you decided that was myth but that the resurrection actually happened?

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 11:35:47

I haven't decided it was a myth, since I really haven't thought about it. I don't hold a brief to speak on behalf of 'religion' -- religions are so different -- and I really don't know enough about any other religion to speak about it, apart from saying, as I did above, that all religions have glimpses of the truth of God but that for me Christianity sees more of the truth. I believe the resurrection happened: that is what I said, no more, no less.

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 11:39:51

niminy I'm confused how you believe that Jesus came back from the dead based on the scriptures but at the same time are able to decide that when Jesus claimed he was the only way to god that he didn't mean it, or didn't say it or whatever? Can you explain this seeming inconsistency in your approach to the bible?

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 11:41:46

Have I ever said that I didn't think that Jesus didn't say or mean that he was the only way to God?

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 11:58:03

niminy I asked you how you knew your god was the right god to which you replied: because, HeadinHands, there's only one God. It's not like I looked at all available gods and decided he had the edge. There's only one to choose from. I think he's the God that Muslims, Hindus, and everybody else is worshipping under the names they have for him.

And I then asked why did Jesus say he was the only way to god if thats not the case and why was god killing iff people that worshipped other gods in the OT and you replied God didn't write the books: we did.

I'm having trouble understanding how you can accept that all religions lead to the same god if you hold any stock in the biblical resurrection. You obviously manage to though so how is that? Either Jesus was mistaken or you are? You can't both be right?

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 11:58:21

"I know this is a bit pedantic, but I only listed 6 titles. This suggests to me that you are not reading my posts very carefully."

You actually listed 7 books, not 6. (Look in your 3rd paragraph for the 1st book.)

Or maybe we should stop nitpicking and concentrate on things that matter.

"You would find, were you to read them, that the people who wrote them met God in all sorts of ways"

.... which you can quickly summarise if you would like us to know about them. It is unreasonable to expect people to read seven books just so they understand what you want to say (but won't).

"Science (or scientific method, if you like) is good at answering questions about what the world is like, but it is not good at answering second-order questions about the significance of what it finds out."

I'm not sure what you mean by that. Surely the significance of something or other is different according to each person, unless we are talking about relevance, which science answers very well.

"The idea that it could do this was termed the 'naturalistic fallacy' by the philosopher GE Moore. This could be summarised as 'you cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is''."

Naturalistic fallacy isn't about science being inadequate at all. You are talking about a philosophical question, and nobody is claiming that scientific thinking should be used to answer philosophical questions - if it were, than there would be no debate in philosophy.

And I have no idea why we are talking about philosophy because religious faith has nothing to do with any of this. It is perfectly possible and even desirable to avoid any reference to religion when talking about philosophical subjects.

"I came to believe Jesus rose from the dead because I can't see that any other explanation makes sense of what came after."

Have you considered the possibility that it is just a story? That it didn't actually happen that way?

"When all the other explanations have been discounted as impossible, what remains must be the truth -- however improbable it seems."

Except that none of it has been discounted because there are no actual records of what happened there. We weren't there. There were no recordings. No proof that he was dead. No proof that he was then seen alive. Nada.

"'I look for the resurrection of the dead': I hope for it."

Hope is not the same thing as reality.

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 12:22:12

Headinhands. I didn't address your point about Jesus in that post.

My view is that Jesus is the way to God for all people everywhere, in the sense that he reconciles humanity to God through his death. He does this for all people, all the time, not just for Christians. He does it for you, and for Muslims, and for devotees of Cargo Cults. He does it whether you believe in him or not. He does it whether you've ever heard of him or not. If you say, 'yah boo sucks Jesus is is a fairy tale' he still does it.

That's my belief. It isn't at all incompatible with knowing that the Bible was written by humans, or that seeing that all religions worship the one God under a multiplicity of names, or that they all have glimpses of the truth of God.

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 12:26:11

I never understood that tale. Why on earth did God need to get himself born as a man, then arrange for himself to be killed, so that he would forgive humanity's sins?

It seems so silly. Isn't it much easier for the Creator to say "I'll forgive humanity's sins"? What exactly is gained by going through that whole bloody charade which, let's be honest, also stretches credulity to its absolute limits?

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 12:43:11

Cote I did try to indicate some of the ways in which people encounter God. I'm not sure I understand why you are so upset that I listed some of the accounts people have given of their encounters with God. But:

Julian of Norwich: 'At the age of 30 and a half, suffering from a severe illness and believing she was on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ. They ended by the time she recovered from her illness on 13 May 1373.' Julian had sixteen visions of Christ which are recounted in Revelations of Divine Love.

That's a concrete example for you.

The reason we are talking about philosophy (and philosophy and theology do have many common areas of interest, for example ontology and ethics) is because I was trying to explain that while science is very good at answering some kinds of questions, it is useless for others. So, 'how did the universe take the form that it now has?' is an example of a question that can be answered by science. 'What is the universe for?' (a second-order question arising from the first, and about the significance of the first) is one that cannot. Solipsism (one's own personal response is enough to determine the significance of events) leads to all kinds of problems -- ones that we have to use non-scientific discourses to talk about.

Yes, I have considered the possibility that the resurrection is a story. But along with all serious scholars in the field, I regard the existence and death of Jesus to be a certainty.

Hope is not reality. Hope transfigures reality.

townbuiltonahill Mon 04-Feb-13 12:53:47

Cote

it seems so silly

I agree totally - but did you realise you are quoting (or echoing) the Bible almost word for word? : But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 12:58:18

What makes you think I'm upset? confused We are having a calm little conversation. Why would I be upset?

"Julian of Norwich"

Some time in the 14th century, a very sick man possibly got a bit delirious and saw Jesus. Then he got better. If this is the kind of "experience", I'm afraid I don't think it is very credible as evidence to Jesus being God and God having visited him and made him better.

"The reason we are talking about philosophy (and philosophy and theology do have many common areas of interest, for example ontology and ethics)"

They might have common areas of interest, but philosophy doesn't need religion. So why are we talking about this, if you are trying to show that we need religion to answer questions that don't concern scientific method?

"'What is the universe for?' (a second-order question arising from the first, and about the significance of the first) is one that cannot [be answered by science]"

The universe doesn't have to be for anything, so that is a strange question. Like "What is Uranus for?". I think you would only ask that sort of question if you want to hear "Because we are all loved by God and he created the Universe to house us".

"Yes, I have considered the possibility that the resurrection is a story."

And? Isn't that more probable than God having come to earth born as a human, than killed himself to prove something to people, and then resurrected that poor human shell to prove something else?

Even if the person named Jesus was left for dead and then rose later, isn't it far more probable that they just thought he was dead? You know, like several people per year are taken to morgue and even given death certificates by doctors, who then get up and walk?

"Hope is not reality. Hope transfigures reality."

I lost two friends to cancer. One was at university. Oh how they hoped, but that hope didn't transform their reality sad

Do you really think that millions who die of terrible illnesses every year do so because they don't have hope?

I wonder why Jesus doesn't come to them in a vision and save them. Maybe because we live in the 21st century, and any such claims of seeing Jesus and getting all better are not as easy to pull off.

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 13:02:51

town - I don't think that quote is talking about God doing silly things himself.

If decades of such conversations with the faithful have shown me one thing, it is that there is no way to put doubt in the mind of someone who can say stuff like "God moves in mysterious ways", so I'm not even trying to do that.

All I am saying is that the whole story doesn't make one bit of sense. God himself got born as a boy, then arranged stuff to get himself die a gruesome and painful death, so that he would forgive mankind's sins. Err... what? Why?

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 13:07:12

You sound a little bit upset, that's all. If you're not, fine. Your prose style probably just makes you sound spluttery and hyperbolic and a bit agitated.

I must go to work, so can't answer all your points. But just on a point of fact, Julian was a woman, not a man. She didn't claim that her visions of Jesus cured her. They are what she called them, revelations of divine love.

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 13:16:12

I can assure you that I am neither spluttery nor agitated hmm

If you see hyperbole in any of my posts, please kindly point them out.

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 13:17:33

"She didn't claim that her visions of Jesus cured her"

But that is what people writing books are claiming centuries later, isn't it?

Or what exactly is the point of saying "She was in her death bed, then saw visions of Jesus, and healed"?

There's also the question of "Who gets to define sin?" The bible has several things listed as sins, and then there are some sins which are modern-day inventions. Is taking contraception a sin? How about sex outside of marriage? The Catholic Church says yes, the Church of England says maybe. Everybody with any morals, regardless of theism, thinks cold-blooded murder is a sin. So if Jesus is dying for sins which ones is he dying for?

townbuiltonahill Mon 04-Feb-13 14:20:46

Hi Cote

I've just been to the website of the BHA, and find myself in agreement with most of their aims and aspirations. I have seen - on this and similar threads - statements by humanists, secularists etc that they are perfectly happy and content with their world view etc etc. Not a problem to me at all.

The puzzle to me is that you, and your cohort, keep coming back to threads like this with questions and challenges. It is as though there was an itch which just would not go away .....

Since you don't have time to read many more books, may I just assist by quoting a few words of the Humanist 'prophet' Julian Huxley in a visionary 1951 BBC Radio series Evolution in Action (Kindle edition not yet available)?:

" .... the highest and most sacred duty of man is seen as the proper utilisation of the untapped resources of human beings."

"The greatest opportunities ..... would seem to lie in applying scientific method to the exploration of man's inner life. The experiences of the mystics of all creeds and of the practitioners of Yoga prove [sic - my emphasis] what transcendental states of inner peace and unity of spirit the human personality is capable of.

"The systematic study of these possibilities of spiritual development would hold out the hope of devising techniques for making them more generally attainable."

" .... freedom of thought and enquiry and creative expression are necessary prerequisites for anything that we can consider as a full human life or as a social advance."

And finally (for now):

" .... evolutionary humanism, it seems to me, is capable of becoming the germ of a new religion [italics mine] , not necessarily supplanting existing religions but supplementing them.

"It remains to see how this germ could be developed - to work out its intellectual framework, to see how its ideas could be made inspiring, to ensure their wide diffusion.

"Above all, it would be necessary to justify ideas by facts - to find the areas of frustration and point out where they were being reduced; to show how research into human possibilities was providing new incentives for their realisation, as well as demonstrating the means for realising them.

62 years on, it would be interesting to hear from those who know, how this research is proceeding.

I'm off to finish my re-reading of Brave New World.

smile

HolofernesesHead Mon 04-Feb-13 14:32:13

Cote, most people who are interested in Julian of Norwich are interested in her visions (or 'showings' as she called them), and her position wrt the church as a woman. She is a powerfully authoritative religious person, but what gives her her authority is the content of her visionary experiences. If you're not interested in her, so be it; but don't assume what others, who are interested in her, are saying about her.

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 14:34:29

Cote, the reason we were talking about second-order questions, and I looked back to the thread for this, was because yesterday evening you said:

"I actually said in the post you reply to that science may not have all the answers now but there is no reason to believe that it won't one day soon". I've been trying to suggest that it is mistaking the parameters of scientific inquiry to believe <faith statement alert! wink> that science will one day have all the answers.

I don't think having hope will change the course of a disease like cancer. I do think hope can transfigure the reality of having the disease. I think hope can transform how we live our precious life. As the Christian Aid slogan has it, 'I believe in life before death'.

It's not very likely that they just thought he was dead, though, given that he was crucified. That's the kind of thing that really does kill you. It's not like going into a coma. The simplest explanation is still the best one: he died and then he came back to life.

The incarnation (God becoming man) is the craziest, most foolish doctrine in the history of religion (and I say that knowing how that's going to be quoted). What religious group would make up a doctrine that God became man -- not just any old man, but a carpenter in a backwoods bit of the Roman empire, who not only hung around with outcasts, collaborators and the dispossessed, but then allowed himself to be put to death by the full might of the Roman state acting in concert with the elite of the local priesthood. You couldn't make it up, could you?

He didn't 'arrange for himself to die': it was done to him, by other humans who had free will. He was killed because he annoyed the hell out of them. But by willingly accepting that death, he turned back death upon itself and conquered it once for all. Sin is what divides humans from God, it is our relentless messing up, our relentless capacity to be stupid, and cruel, and hurtful, and inattentive, and lazy. Sin is when we don't do what God would want us to do, when we turn away from God. We all do it. In dying Jesus joined us back to God, opened the door for us to walk right back in and claim our inheritance as God's children.

HolofernesesHead Mon 04-Feb-13 14:37:04

Anyway, I mistrust this thread as it was started by someone who hasn't been heard of since the OP. It makes me feel as though we are all being used for some end, as if we are all playing out someone else's agenda. From a Pre-destination vs. free will POV, it is actually quite interesting. But I'd rather err on the side of free will, so I'm deliberately steering clear.

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 14:38:48

I have a "cohort"? Who are they?

I had to look up BHA btw. And wondered for a brief second why you thought I had anything to do with British Horseracing Authority grin I don't have anything to do with BHA, either, in case you're wondering.

"keep coming back to threads like this with questions and challenges. It is as though there was an itch"

We post on threads that interest us? How dare we.

Re Julian Huxley's quote, what was visionary in 1951 isn't that impressive these days. You might be interested to know that a lot has been discovered about the brain and "inner peace" since 1951. Since we are recommending books (and assuming strangers will read them), I can point you to Carl Sagan's Dragons Of Eden (published in early-1970s) and My Stroke Of Insight, where you will see that scientific method has indeed explored the states of inner peace and unity of spirit... and has found that these have to do with decreased activity of the left brain.

Since you don't have time to read many more books, may I just assist by quoting a few words of the Humanist 'prophet' Julian Huxley in a visionary 1951 BBC Radio series Evolution in Action (Kindle edition not yet available)?:

" .... evolutionary humanism, it seems to me, is capable of becoming the germ of a new religion [italics mine] , not necessarily supplanting existing religions but supplementing them."

What a bizarre thought. It is my pleasure to report that upholding rationalism & evidence against faith-based dogma has not become a new religion. Thankfully.

I'm wondering if David Icke will be revered in a couple of thousand years? After all, he definitely exists. What about the hundreds of "saints" who are carrying out miracles today? Will any of them get picked upon by history to become the new Messiah or does modern-living, modern communications (and modern cynicism) mean the Messiah-role has become defunct?

I'm also interested in who Cote's "cohort" are? Is it her fellow atheists, or just anyone (like me who is actually very religious/spiritual) who questions the beliefs of the religions of the god of Abraham?

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 14:54:22

"I've been trying to suggest that it is mistaking the parameters of scientific inquiry to believe <faith statement alert! > that science will one day have all the answers."

I see where the misunderstanding has come from. When I said "science will have the answers one day", I was referring to scientific topics like electron transport chain in mitochondria that puzi was talking about, not questions like "What is good?"

"It's not very likely that they just thought he was dead, though, given that he was crucified."

They took him down from the cross, thinking he was dead, because his vital signs were gone. Or were they just so low that they couldn't be detected without electronic devices?

"The simplest explanation is still the best one: he died and then he came back to life."

Death and resurrection is not "the simplest explanation"! grin It is the most fanciful and convoluted one.

"You couldn't make it up, could you?"

Of course, you could. Especially if you want to convince an ignorant rabble that something exceptional and divine has taken place.

:He didn't 'arrange for himself to die': it was done to him, by other humans who had free will."

Are you saying God didn't know that he would be killed? Careful here. You don't want to mess with omniscience.

"But by willingly accepting that death, he turned back death upon itself and conquered it once for all. "

Why did God have to "conquer death"? What does "turned back death upon itself" mean?

"Sin is what divides humans from God, it is our relentless messing up, our relentless capacity to be stupid, and cruel, and hurtful, and inattentive, and lazy. Sin is when we don't do what God would want us to do"

Why do you think God created us in a way that would make everyone behave in a way God doesn't want us to?

"In dying Jesus joined us back to God, opened the door for us to walk right back in and claim our inheritance as God's children."

Was the door closed before?

What about people who lived and died before Jesus?

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 14:55:26

world - You can be my cohort, if you like. Just sign here, where it says you promise to obey me and do as I bid on all MN threads smile

niminypiminy Mon 04-Feb-13 15:05:32

I've devoted quite a lot of time to this thread, and it's been interesting. But I'm all argued-out now, and need to concentrate on RL work. So see you around (probably on another threadsmile).

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 15:41:06

There are a few topics I usually get pulled into. I went through a stage of getting embroiled in debates about circumcision. Did my habit of frequently hopping in to such threads to point how unecessary and barbaric it was suggest I secretly wanted to circumcise my ds? Of course not.

sieglinde Mon 04-Feb-13 16:24:50

HH wrote
'm not sure that the scientific community works the same way as the religious one? I don't think the scientific one makes claims without any evidence even when evidence runs to the contrary. It's not a comparison that means anything. You may as well compare it to the world of cooking? And which religious community are you referring too?

I didn't say they worked the same way, just that both involved evolving knowledge. And you could in fact make a comparison to cooking - my knowledge of how to do wiener schnitzel, for instance, changes and evolves every time I do it.

This was in response to your argument that God should have added later revealed truths to the bible.

I wasn't referring to any religious community in particular, but I would point out that in Judaism the Talmud, in RC Christianity canon law and the catechism, and in Islam the study of the Quran are understood as evolving knowledges, which will in future evolve still further. Rather like physics; we know we don't know as much now as we will in a hundred years.

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 16:36:28

Niminy I can't understand why Yahweh had such a big problem with other gods if he actually was those other gods?

headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 16:38:52

sieg as you see it, what are these 'later revealed truths to the bible'?

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 18:48:28

Good talking to you, niminy smile

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 04-Feb-13 23:56:51

Oh Cote, I am sorry if I upset you. I really didn't mean to.sad

What you said did shock me. I could not conceive of anyone believing that they are rational 100% of the time. How did they come to that conclusion? How do they feel living in a quite irrational world?

I see you have addressed some of these points unthread.

sieglinde Tue 05-Feb-13 08:08:38

hh, the way in which - say St Therese's Little Way reshapes personal morality, or Ignatius helps us comprehend prayer. It doesn't supersede the NT, but it explicates it.

hh, don't want to speak for niminy, but I have a bit of a problem with Baal too - the historical record shows a strong tradition of frequent human sacrifice of male infants to him. By contrast Yahweh only plays with the idea - it's a kind of ghost in both bits of the Bible.

CoteDAzur Tue 05-Feb-13 09:04:23

Dione - I'm not upset at all (and really wish people would stop worrying). This is normal conversation and I'm happy to be part of it.

Many if not most of us are rational beings. I have come across only a few people who let emotions cloud their judgement.

Things like drinking excessively for one night are not irrational decisions. Yes, you know that you will suffer the next day, but it is a trade-off (Econ term) - you make the rational decision that having fun with your friends tonight is worth the pain of the hangover tomorrow. For another person, it may not be worth it. These are personal preferences, determined by a person's utility function (another Econ term) and neither outcome is irrational.

In comparison, believing that the Earth is a few thousand years old while knowing for a fact that there are fossils over a million years old is irrational. When faced with such conflicting ideas, rational people abandon the belief that has absolutely no proof behind it, in favour of proven facts.

I hope the distinction is clear.

mummysmellsofsick Tue 05-Feb-13 17:08:31

"Belief and disbelief have divided mankind into so many sects, blinding its eyes
to the vision of the oneness of all life"

Hazrat Inayat Khan

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 05-Feb-13 17:54:12

Cote, you have employed the defense mechanisms of rationalization (you accept the trade off) and intellectualization (use of economic terminology) to justify drinking to excess. From what I have seen creationists use exactly the same processes to justify their belief that the world is only a few thousand years old. It's not that you haven't thought it through, you have. But just because you thought it through and accepted any consequences doesn't make your decision to drink to excess a rational one.

We are irrational beings, we may think that we are not but the fact is a myriad of unconscious processes are at work everytime we make decisions. The most rational people in our society are psychopaths.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 05-Feb-13 21:37:47

I do not in any way mean to imply that you are not a rational person Cote. We all have our irrationalities and employ defenses. This is the norm. Indeed I find you an interesting, considered poster. And certainly more rational than many.smile

You come across as an intelligent, educated person who thinks things through so you may be more rational than others. I think that the fact that it was you who posted this that lead me to wonder what do you make of this mad world?

What do you think about a world of religion, trends, war, celebrities, starvation, love, fashion, advertising, obesity and MN and stuff? Like it is a crazy place.

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 08:17:03

Dione - I think we need to agree on some definitions, because you are saying stuff that makes no sense to me.

Rational = Based on or in accordance with reason or logic: "a rational explanation"

Irrational = Without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason. Without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment. Utterly illogical (irrational arguments)

Therefore, you cannot call someone's reasoned decision based on personal preferences "irrational", no matter how much you disagree with that decision.

In contrast, it is irrational to believe that the Earth is a few thousand years old, while knowing that there are million-year-old fossils in the ground. Because the two are contradictory and accepting them both requires complete disregard for logic and reason. Hence, irrational.

I have used the terms trade-off and utility function because I have studied Economics as well as Game Theory. Both fields of study work with rational players acting in a rational way, who part with a cost (price of a restaurant meal) in expectation of the desired payoff (enjoying a pleasant evening at the restaurant).

I realize that these are alien subjects to you so understanding is not likely to come quickly or easily, but please look them up and try to familiarise yourself with these concepts. They will be invaluable tools for you to make sense of the world you live in (and understand that it is not an irrational place).

"you have employed the defense mechanisms of rationalization (you accept the trade off)"

You think so because you don't understand what the term trade-off means and how it is used in context. It is a perfectly normal term to use when talking about rational choices, as anyone who has ever studied the subject can tell you.

"From what I have seen creationists use exactly the same processes to justify their belief that the world is only a few thousand years old."

I would be surprised. Tell me, what kind of process do they used to justify this belief? Trade-off of what? "Intellectualisation" how?

"The most rational people in our society are psychopaths."

And you know that because you are intimate with so many psychopaths? hmm

You have clearly never studied nor in any way understood decision-making processes, which is fine, I don't mind sharing the information. However, you need to refrain from making silly sweeping generalisations like the above which completely undermine your credibility, imho.

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 08:21:26

"What do you think about a world of religion, trends, war, celebrities, starvation, love, fashion, advertising, obesity and MN and stuff? Like it is a crazy place."

It is not a crazy place at all, and I am a bit sad for you that you understand so little of it that you think it makes no sense.

Seriously, read some Game Theory.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 06-Feb-13 12:24:37

Rational thinking, the ability to think and make decisions based on logic. No person has ever existed that has been able to do this free from emotions and social conditioning. Despite this fact most people believe that they are rational most of the time, even when making quite irrational decisions. In order to maintain this myth of rationality we have defense mechanisms. Everyone has them. We use them to justify our irrational actions. For most people they are not problematic and indeed are a necessary protective measure that allow us to make quick decisions.

Psychopaths experience reduced emotions therefore they are the the most rational members of our society. However not even psychopaths are free from emotions and conditioning.

Why do we make the decisions that we do? Ultimately we make our decision based on what we think will provide us with the most happiness. An emotion. Getting drunk with your friends may make you happy, but it is not rational. Also, what makes you happy may not be the same as what makes someone else happy. Therefore our society operates with the parameters of accepted irrationality.

You say that I *have clearly never studied nor in any way understood
decision making processes*. On the contrary, my field of work and study is how people make decisions. I work in MH and study psychology. While I accept that not everyone works in this field, I had mistakenly thought that most people had some knowledge of the role of the unconscious and maybe even Defence Mechanisms.blush

Cote do you have children? If so, what was your process of reasoning when you chose to have them?

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 21:22:52

I have to insist that you learn about Game Theory and micro-economy. You must learn about how people make rational decisions.

By the way, it is deeply worrying that your background in psychology has led you to believe that people are irrational beings shock

townbuiltonahill Wed 06-Feb-13 22:42:53

Come on then, Cote.

You presumably made a considered, rational decision based on an expectation of a 'good' (for you) outcome, to join this thread.

(And yes, you are of course as entitled as any of the rest of us to be here).

May we hear the basis of your reasoning please, including the initial premises?

[off to revise my game theory knowledge]

What is the relevance of micro-economics to the conversation please?

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 17:16:04

town - That is not what we are talking about. Nobody is saying that my decision to participate in this thread was not a rational one. (What do you mean by "good outcome" from joining a thread on MN, anyway?)

We are talking about people's rational decision-making processes, which is proving to be challenging because some of us know nothing about the disciplines that study rational decisions like Economy and Game Theory.

That is the relevance of microeconomy.

And I have no idea what you just asked me - basis of which reasoning?

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 07-Feb-13 20:56:33

Cote, I unfortunately do not have the time to dedicate to Game Theory and Micro economics. Like you, my reading schedule is pretty full for the foreseeable future. Perhaps you can give me a brief synopsis and examples of usage.

I looked it up on Wiki (I know) and it seems to be a model for improving rational decision making by more than one person. Is that correct? If it is I fail to see it's relevance to your assertion that you are rational 100% of the time.confused.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 21:14:45

No, not necessarily more than one person. There are Game Theory analyses of, for example, parents' vaccination decisions.

If you are at all interested in rational decision making, you must learn about (1) Game Theory and (2) Micro-economics, and Utility Functions in particular.

Game Theory will show you that things that look irrational from the outside (like parents not vaccinating their kids, or people not cooperating even when their lives depend on it) are actually rational decisions from their viewpoints. Utility Functions show that I may make choices totally different than yours due to differences in personal preferences, although we will both be making rational choices.

Reading a bit about Economy will also teach you the importance of concepts like trade-off, opportunity cost, sunk cost, etc. All of this will be invaluable to you in seeing how rational decisions are made in the world, imho.

I guess fundamentally people cling to their imaginary friends because they are a bit gullible or a bit desperate. As long as they don't allow their superstitions to inconvenience or harm other people, it's fine. Ludicrous, but not my business unless they choose to make it so.

NotDavidTennant Thu 07-Feb-13 22:06:55

Not that I want to derail this thread, but Game Theory assumes the existence of rational actors and works from there, it doesn't offer a proof that human beings are rational actors.

In fact, it's pretty well recognised by the fields of psychology and behavioural economics that humans do not always make the decisions you would expect if they were purely rational agents.
e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:10:12

Did anyone say GT proves everyone is rational?

I said it shows how people make decisions and why they are rational although they might look irrational. Like in the Prisoner's Dilemma I linked to in my previous post.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:11:53

... and the reason we started talking about GT and utility functions is that some people here believe drinking a bit too much for a night or eating a bit too much once in a while are examples of irrational behaviour.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:24:42

Btw, your citing Cognitive Bias is like pointing out Logical Fallacies and saying they show nobody is logical.

sciencelover Thu 07-Feb-13 22:49:24

I can't think of a single belief that I hold that I don't consider rational.

Interesting discussion, btw. I've always found human psychology fascinating.

Picking up on an earlier point as to why us rational types are prepared to come back and argue some more with the superstitious - it's not that we object to you believing in whatever old crap floats your boat. It's of no more interest or relevance to other people than your choice of whether to fold or scrunch your bogroll/which rugby team you support/your liking for the novels of Katie Price. Enjoy, knock yourself out, believe whatever you like. BUT remember that your imaginary friend is like a penis. It's fine to have one, fine to be happy with it but NOT ACCEPTABLE to wave it about in public, expect other people to love it the way you do, and definitely not acceptable to shove it down the throats of those who have no interest in it.

Snorbs Fri 08-Feb-13 13:51:35

Oh I dunno, I think I could persuade myself that at least some of my beliefs are irrational. Eg that Heinz baked beans are better than all others.

That being said, those beliefs of mine that I suspect are possibly irrational are not so central to my idea of self and the universe that I follow an entire theology based around them. An irrational belief about something trivial is, well, trivial. An irrational belief used as a basis for a complete worldview is different.

sieglinde Fri 08-Feb-13 14:08:59

Maybe people here might find this site interesting www.freefaith.com

Also a fine study of irrationality is Thinking, Fast and Slow. Rationality is a bit like morality. Most people think their choices are moral and rational. But it's debatable whether they actually are.

tuffie Fri 08-Feb-13 15:10:13

SGB - I feel you must have had a bad experience with a Christian at some point, or live in some sort of strange Bible Bashing Belt.
I have asked every one of my atheist friends- of which I have many- and not a single one of them has a problem with anyone of any faith. They have never been "bothered" by a Christian, certainly don t feel their lives are affected in any way by people with faith, and in fact agree that the vast majority of Christians are great people whom they love to be around. Just as I enjoy being around them.
I, and none of my Christian friends, have ever "waved it about in public or expect other people to love it the way they do." Nor do we have any intention of doing so. Yes, we talk about how much our faith means to us when we are out at Christian social get togethers, but otherwise it is kept pretty much private.

headinhands Fri 08-Feb-13 16:56:43

* but otherwise it is kept pretty much private.*

If you're keeping it private you're not doing it right. I thought the whole thrust of christianity was converting people?

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 08-Feb-13 19:54:28

Cote, thanks for this conversation, before this I was unaware that there were still clever people who were unaware of the unconscious dynamic in decision making and maintained such a stance after considered thought. This discovery rocked my world has really given me food for thought.smile

Look, the main problem with the superstitious (not necessarily any individuals posting in this discussion) is the privilege they demand for their bullshit. Like being entitled to discriminate against women, and gay men and lesbians, because their imaginary friend doesn't like the idea of gay people having sex or women having bodily autonomy. Your right to believe whatever bullshit you choose is worthy of respect in the same way that your right to shave your head, call yourself Hairy Butterfly, eat fish with strawberry jam on it and sleep in the bath is worthy of respect ie no one should stop you doing it.
However, the bronze age mythology, misogynist bullshit and sheer pointlessness of religion - well, it's not worth of respect. There is no reason anyone else is obliged to take any of it seriously, and it should have no place in public space or policy making. That's why rational people argue against it and feel obliged to keep pointing out that it's bullshit and irrelevant to non-enthusiasts.

sieglinde Sat 09-Feb-13 11:01:18

I LIKE Bronze Age mythology. Why is Bronze Age a term of disapprobation? The Bronze Age invented science and astronomy and decent agriculture. Smacks of white supremacism.

Of course it's all pointless if you don't believe in God - except for all the charities, and the moral code, and the intellectual inheritance (yes, that's what I said).

SGB, are you really saying that a few harmless quirks should disqualify you from a role in public policymaking?

Or are you saying that anyone who is - say - strongly homophobic should have no role in government? In my experience, not everyone with religious beliefs is homophobic, and not everyone without religious beliefs is tolerant. I get your point that a few people think religion insists they act homophobically, but since not everyone with religious views thinks this, religion may not be the decider here.

IME, homophobia is very irrational. People suffering from it should be made to reads the excellent Biological Exuberance. David Attenborough, self-professed atheist, still refuses to show gay and lesbian animals in his programmes. You don't find much about them in the Dawkins oeuvre, either.

Agree v strongly btw that the c of e should be disestablished, but in part because it's only ONE religion, despite its ridiculous pretenses.

tuffie Sat 09-Feb-13 18:41:20

headinhands - I can only speak for myself and my church community, but not at all is our whole thrust in converting . We tend to walk the walk rather than talk the talk ie visit the old, sick, homeless and help the police in our street pastor roles. But we do not talk about our religion unless specifically asked to.

SGB - Just as many of my atheist friends are homophobic as are my Christian friends. I, by the way am not, and do not have a problem with gay people getting married.

sieglinde - I did not realise that David Attenborough was such a homophobe, that is worrying as he holds such authority.

sieglinde Sun 10-Feb-13 12:30:38

tuffie, it's that his wildlife programmes uphold the entirely wrong idea that animals are het by cutting out scenes of gay animals. A good part of the ridiculous argument against gayness is that it's not natural - but it IS - for many species - dolphins, penguins, bonobos, giraffes - yes, there are queer giraffes...

CoteDAzur Mon 11-Feb-13 11:51:53

Dione - Nobody is disputing that there are factors that affect perception. These are inputs into the decision-making process. What we are talking about is the rationality of the decision-making process itself - i.e. what exactly our brain does with those inputs. Does it use logic to come up with an answer, or emotion & chance?

It is fine if you don't understand this distinction or even consider yourself to be irrational. Just please refrain from broadening that unfortunate judgement to the human race in general and myself in particular.

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