I don't think I understand the concept of hell...

(133 Posts)
deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 20:10:15

Hi, I hope I can explain my question clearly. I've been thinking about it for a while and I just don't really understand.

As a Christian, I would never condone torture because I don't think we should ever treat people like that, regardless of what they've done. If I can love my neighbour enough not to condone torture than how can God, who loves us more than I could ever love anybody, commit somebody to eternal torture in hell? I don't think I could condemn anyone to that (I certaintly hope I couldn't) so how could an all loving God do that?

I'm sure there's probably an explanation that I just haven't thought of (I know my current understanding of God is pretty rubbish) and I'd really appreciate it if somebody could help me.

BigGiantCowWithAKnockKnockTail Fri 12-Apr-13 20:12:26

My understanding of hell is eternal separation from God, so not physical torture as such, but the lack of His presence which would be considered torture.

Anthracite Fri 12-Apr-13 20:22:16

Hell is separation from God.

headinhands Fri 12-Apr-13 20:43:55

Who made hell? Who goes to hell?

deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 21:00:33

Ok, that makes a lot more sense, thanks for your responses. So Hell then isn't so much a place of punishment but a place where you can't have a relationship with God. Of course, that's not great but I mean it's not a place made to make you suffer but a place where you go as a logical conclusion of having rejected God. Have I got that more right?

headinhands Fri 12-Apr-13 21:03:18

So if a man rapes and murders an atheist woman but then finds god, or should I say the right god, in prison, she ends up in hell for eternity while he goes to heaven. And that's fair?

deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 21:48:44

I think that that example doesn't do the complexity of the issue justice. If a rapist truely did 'find God' than they would really, truely regret what they had done. What they had done would still be abhorrent, and if they had really come to know God then they would know that. I know that their regret would not help their victim but then if they truely came to know God then they would want to make up for their previous sins. (I would hope that that would involve some sort of work to prevent rape or protect women or women's rights in some way). If that really did happen then perhaps that person would get to heaven.

However, in practice it obviously wouldn't work like that because the rape would not be the only thing they ever happened in their lives. An athiest women might be raped and then separately in the rest of her life be really unpleasant or they might be the nicest person you ever met. So basically I have no idea whether she would go to heaven or not. I still wouldn't know if I knew everything about their lives because I don't know everything about God, and I never will. All I know is that I believe in Him, so I want to try and understand and live a good life myself. And that simplistic examples are rarely helpful.

Sorry, I know that's rather rambly and probably makes little sense. I'd be interested to hear other people's ideas.

headinhands Fri 12-Apr-13 21:58:45

So the only way he could regret what he had done would be if he found god? What if he already believed in god? So how do those of us without a belief in god manage to live good lives?

What if he believes in the wrong god? What if the woman was just a normal woman, not perfect but just like you and me, going to work, paying bills, looking after her kids, but still totally rejected the existence of a loving god on intellectual grounds?

You say its a complex issue but in terms of statistics it will have happened at some point Do you think the woman goes to hell and he to heaven?

deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 22:25:47

I never said that the only way he could regret what he'd done would be to find God. I don't believe that. Knowing God would cause you to regret it but that's not the only way.

If he already knew God then he wouldn't have committed rape in the first place. If you truely knew God then you would love Him and therefore your neighbours. You don't rape people you truely love. He might have said that he believed in God but a someone willing to commit rape couldn't possibly truely know God.

So, I think that if a rapist came to truely know God then yes, they would go to heaven. But they would also truely and wholeheartly wish they hadn't committed the rape.

I don't think that I can say whether the average women like you or I would go to heaven if she'd been raped. You don't get to go to heaven because horrible things happen to you, whether that's rape or assault or bereavment or homelessness or whatever. You get to go to heaven if your responses to what happens to you in life are right. Personally, at the moment, I think that if this women lived a good life, so cared for her neighbours etc, she would go to heaven.

Do you think that people who have rubbish lives should be automatically entiled to get to heaven? And do you think that someone who truely loved their neighbour could commit rape?

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Fri 12-Apr-13 22:59:28

Matthew 13:41-42 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Yeah, sounds like it's just separation from God.... no torture or anything.....

headinhands Fri 12-Apr-13 22:59:38

No, the way she dies is immaterial, I used the scenario to juxtapose her with the man. What about if he had a mental illness and never found god after. Is he still culpable. Psychology has shown us that certain conditions make individuals more likely to commit certain crimes. We are all a product of our genetics and environment and free-will is effectively a comforting illusion. Of course that's not to say we shouldn't imprison dangerous and habitual offenders, there's no perfect solution, but the heaven/hell conundrum is a very very poor one. The reason I ask all these questions is that when I do, I see that the model for heaven/hell that all the religions come up seem very immoral. Even as a mere human I able to say 'no that would be grossly unfair' and therefore have to suppose my moral reasoning is superior to the god who would do that.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Fri 12-Apr-13 23:04:19

Revelation 21:8 "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

I think that clears up the issue of the rapist and the atheist victim, they will both be off to the fiery lake.

headinhands Fri 12-Apr-13 23:08:43

The cowardly? So that'd be people with any sort of anxiety disorder? Or have I got that out of context?

headinhands Fri 12-Apr-13 23:10:26

No offence to people with anxiety disorders of course! they're certainly not cowards as far as I'm concerned so what does it mean when it says cowardly.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Fri 12-Apr-13 23:14:08

Don't know about the cowardly, but I'm more concerned about those who practice magic arts. I can't genuinely believe that Ron Weasley's gonna burn in sulphur.....

LizzyDay Fri 12-Apr-13 23:25:15

Deadlift - I think you'll find that modern day Christians, in the UK anyway, will be falling over themselves to say 'oh no, we don't promote the idea of hell any more, it makes us look like loons if we do '. Few will admit to being motivated by a future in heaven either.

headinhands Fri 12-Apr-13 23:37:39

Poor old Paul Daniels and his lovely assistant/wife Debbie Magee!

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 08:47:54

I really don't know what heaven or hell are like but I too see it as a separation from God. Very hard to get my head around so, to be honest, I tend to concentrate on trying to live this life in the best way I can (possibly a cop out but works got me).

As an aside I wouldn't see 'cowardly' as those who suffer from anxiety, it's more likely to mean those who do not have the courage to follow what they know to be right as revealed by God in my opinion. Otherwise I am stuffed by my inability to be more than 20 feet off the ground without my knees knocking.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 08:51:03

So you don't believe in the bible description of hell then?

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 09:06:32

I can imagine that for me, as a Christian, permanent separation from God would feel worse than being cast into some fiery furnace, perhaps it is a state of the soul rather than a literal massive bonfire but this was how the writers were able to interpret it. Perhaps it is more internalised than that. I don't disbelieve what is written because I can see how permanent separation from God could be beyond the worst things I could imagine.

As I said it's hard to get my head around, I don't pretend to have the answer and, if I am honest, neither is my faith based on a fear of it, therefore I am trying to concentrate on living this life as best as I can and trusting in God as a loving God.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 09:20:44

It's more likely to mean those who do not have the courage to follow what they know to be right as revealed by God in my opinion.

Interesting. Can you give me some examples of what god has revealed to be right, and that it takes courage to follow? Furthermore how come you'll have one Christian saying 'this is right' and another saying 'no this is'. Why does god tell different followers different things such as is the case with homosexuality?

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 09:23:51

There is one simple message for all Christians in my opinion 'to love one another as I have loved you'.

Easy to say, very difficult to practise.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 09:30:51

If you have decided that the biblical description of hell is a metaphor, how do you then not see it all as metaphor? And what are the rules for deciding if something is metaphor because from a lot of the threads on here it seems like this: if it sounds horrible it's a metaphor but if it sounds lovely it's literal. It's another example of how most Christians, thankfully, use their own standard of morality when interpreting the scriptures which shows that you, as a person living in 2013 have superior values than either god, or the people who wrote it, and I think the latter is clear the answer.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 09:35:43

There is one simple message for all Christians in my opinion 'to love one another as I have loved you'.

Is the one another everybody or just fellow believers?

How does it take courage to love one another? Can you give examples? How is a Christian loving one another different to a non-Christian loving their fellow human?

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 09:41:44

But what about all the complicated messages that are also conveyed?

I also think that to love as he has loved you is not that difficult. He's not exactly shown a great deal of it over the last two thousand years and even the bible accounts aren't that great an example.

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 09:51:39

Of course it means loving everybody regardless of who they are. Therein lies the need for courage as it is easier to love the lovable and live selfishly in many ways.

I don't think a non believer loving another and demonstrating compassion is any different.

Sorry rushing now.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 10:11:23

So you agree that a person doesn't need god to do what god wants him to do, but because he doesn't believe in god according to that verse, he's off to hell anyway? And that seems like the sort of thing a morally superior god would want?

I still don't see how it takes courage to love people? Not unless we water down the word to mean the ability to take a bit of flack or feel a bit out of our comfort zone maybe? Can you give me an example of where you needed actual courage to love someone?

And how ironic that you can decide that the cowardly refers to those who do not love one another but then the rest of the verse is about chucking large groups of other people into a lake of fire. Do you not find that even a little disingenuous. That god's saying 'everyone who loves people like I do will live forever in paradise, but those of you who don't love people like I do, well you're off to be tortured' and that sounds like the actions of a loving sane god?

LizzyDay Sat 13-Apr-13 11:03:53

Thing is a lot of Christians seem to apply cognitive dissonance to this, with vague interpretations of hell and its fiery pits as just 'being separated from god'. So it somehow doesn't seem as vengeful - just a mildly disdainful 'if you're not on the list, you're not coming in'.

Or just duck out of the issue altogether by saying it's all so complex that no-one could possibly hope to understand it and no one knows till they get there. But that doesn't stop a lot of Christians talking about the Kingdom of Heaven as it's a place they're hoping to end up in.

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 11:16:00

I do not believe that all who do not believe in God are off to hell anyway. I cannot get into other people's heads but I believe that the concept of God is huge that God reveals himself to us in ways that we have to be able to understand and we are called to follow. Therefore if God is not revealed to a person in a certain way they cannot follow it but there still may be aspects of God present in individual morality that individuals are called to follow.

I do believe love takes courage. The greatest example of this is the love Jesus showed for those who condemned, ridiculed and ultimately killed him. There are countless other examples everyday carried out by individuals showing compassion and love when it would be easier to put their self first.

My phone being dodgy hence the half first message.

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 11:23:37

Matthew 13 is an interesting chapter to pick a sentence out from in order to take it literally, given that the entire chapter is about metaphors and parables, none of which works when interpreted literally. Jesus is drawing on an existing body of metaphors for judgement developed through the later OT scriptures. I think it is probably truest to say that the idea of judgement and hell was a matter of theological debate that has gone hand in hand with biblical scholarship, and that many, perhaps most, Christians do not interpret those verses literally.

Regarding love and courage. We need to remember that what Jesus means by love is what we do not what we feel. He is pretty uninterested in nice feelings. Love for Jesus is what we do when we welcome the stranger, care for the sick, visit the prisoner, clothe the naked, feed the hungry. Would it take courage to befriend a sex offender on his or her release from prison? Would it take courage to welcome a destitute person into your home? Would it take courage to go without yourself so that another person could have their needs met? Would it take courage to forgive someone who had wronged you? Would it take courage to sacrifice your own needs, your comforts, your wants and desires, for another?

Jesus knows that this is hard. It takes courage. We fail -- I fail, and fail, and fail again. But it is still the ideal that I try to live up to, because Jesus is the best model there has ever been. As for who will go to hell, well, in my view God's forgiveness is, his desire to love us and welcome us, is greater than our capacity to sin. That doesn't mean that it's ok for us to do terrible, cruel, stupid things (such as we all do). It's not. But it means that God will always love us, and always want to welcome us home again, and will always be there willing us to turn away from our stupid, cruel careless actions and towards him.

We all face judgement: judgement is to have our actions looked at by God, who will see them all clearly, seeing through the endless layers of self-justification and self-deception that we all surround ourselves with. I'm pretty terrified of that. But I trust that God's forgiveness is wider and more generous than whatever I can have done,

As for hell, it is being without God -- turned away into nothingness. A good metaphor of hell is an abyss of nothingness. You may say that you already live in a universe without God, so that nothingness would make precisely no difference to you. I would say that perhaps God is like the roar of traffic we are all so used to that we do not hear it. Just because you don't perceive him, does not mean he is not there. In any case, I don't know who will be in hell: I don't need to know, because judgement is between the person and God. All I can do as a person is try to love and forgive as Jesus told us to, and to follow him.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 11:28:13

So Jesus wants us to follow his example of loving people who you think don't deserve to be loved those who killed him, but then those who don't copy that love will get killed in 'the second death'. It just doesn't make any logical sense.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 11:30:47

It's like me saying 'I'm full of love and forgiveness but if you're not the same then I have organised a special place for you to be tortured. Anyone who organises that sort of punishment isn't full of love and forgiveness. I don't know how else I can point out the glaring contradictions.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 11:35:08

But Niminy lots of people do all the things on that list of examples without religion. Furthermore, according to that list, the sex offender and the person in the example above are both off to hell. Also god is expecting you to show love to someone he is going to send to hell. How does that work?

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 11:36:41

headinhands: Gingerdoger and I have both said that we think that hell is separation from God, which is a pefectly orthodox position. I don't know why you are harping on the idea of torture (which I think is morally repugnant, and for the record I do not believe that hell is a place of physical torture). Why do you insist that we should take scripture literally?

Also, read my post. Did I say, or did Gingerdodger say that we thought that those people who don't do sacrificial love will get sent to hell? I wouldn't presume to know: that is between them and God.

LizzyDay Sat 13-Apr-13 11:39:36

"As for hell, it is being without God -- turned away into nothingness. A good metaphor of hell is an abyss of nothingness. You may say that you already live in a universe without God, so that nothingness would make precisely no difference to you. I would say that perhaps God is like the roar of traffic we are all so used to that we do not hear it."

Well - isn't that metaphor implying something along the lines of 'you don't know what you've got till its gone'? With overtones of 'you'll regret it'?

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 11:40:25

Where did I say that the sex offender is off to hell? Only God knows, and he is bigger and better and truer and juster than any human person is able to be. What I'm commanded to do is to love my neighbour (and it is pretty clear that Jesus means outcasts, hated and reviled people are our neighbours) as myself. Perhaps I need to get on with doing that, and stop worrying about who is going to hell.

Jesus said that if you do all the things on that list you have done them to him. Whether you have faith or not.

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 11:40:50

Thanks Niminy, your description of love and courage is a great summing up of what I was trying to say.

It's really hard to say what eternal separation from God would mean to others but to me it seems like that would be worse than the fiercest hell I could imagine. Having said that as a Christian I very rarely think on 'hell' I focus my faith in trying my best to live that Christian life as I believe I am called to do, often failing, but being able to ask for God's loving forgiveness.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 11:44:16

The reason that the concept of hell has evolved is because we as a society have. As we progress, we seek to reinterpret the scriptures to fit. If we are to say 'well that was the way god chose to explain it', why?

We can see the same process of evolving in the area of disease. It used to be that illness was seen as demonic, a view shared by jesus in the NT but since we have developed medicine we now see there is nothing to suggest that there is anything supernatural afoot. If we explain it that Jesus used those words metaphorically why oh why would a loving god see fit to further entrench harmful attitudes towards some of the most vulnerable members of a society.

Why not spend his time educating the brains of the time in some basic healthcare?

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 11:46:45

The bible says the sexually immoral are off to hell. You don't agree? Or you don't think the sex offender is in that category? Who are the sexually immoral it talks of?

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 11:53:31

No it's good that you have reinterpreted those scriptures through your 21st century values. I'm explaining that that process of necessary redefining highlights how you are thankfully, morally superior to the bible, and that this is evidence that religion, and all religions are man made.

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 11:54:35

head you are asking us to judge who should be in heaven or hell, only God can do that.

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 11:56:28

Also to add I think God's judgement is much more complex, nuanced and beyond our understanding than my post above made it sound.

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 12:03:52

Re sexually immoral going to hell: We need to remember that Jesus wasn't particularly interested in sexual immorality. He doesn't like divorce very much (and that in itself is signficant -- for those who think of Christianity as misogynist -- because his target is men who abandon their wives to destitution). He confronts a crowd about to stone a woman 'taken in adultery' by asking them who they are to judge her. That's about it.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 12:04:11

But god has a list in his bible. If it was none of your business why do you suppose god made sure those verses were in the bible? Why even mention hell or anything negative that might happen to certain groups of people?

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 12:08:27

Again, when you say it's all too complex and nuanced wrt to judgement it's because you are using your well developed morals which draws you back from making offensive statements. Whereas no one ever says that gods love is all complex and nuanced and hard to understand, because it's nice and love is good.

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 12:10:03

My own behaviour and practise of Faith is my business, other people's is not in the context of God's judgement.

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 12:11:14

headinhands I have to go. But I'm curious to know why you want to pin such a simplistic, literal and uninformed view of the Bible on Christians.

God didn't write the Bible: human beings did. God inspired the Bible, and it's the record of human attempts to understand that inspiration. It was written by many people, over many centuries. Interpreting it is never simple, though there are passages of great simplicity.

I think Christians and atheists have much of value to say to each other, and to learn from each other. But it's hard to see how that debate can be very enriching if one side keeps trying to make the other fit into a stupid caricature.

LizzyDay Sat 13-Apr-13 12:28:15

But we don't really have anything but the 'caricature' that is in the Bible to go by, do we? If you ask a fundamentalist, they'll say 'hell yeah - you unbelievers and sexually immoral people are gonna fry on Judgement Day'.

But ask a non-fundamentalist Christian about heaven and hell and you will get stuff like 'I don't know', or 'it's not literally what the Bible said, it's somehow different these days, but it's not really for me to say'... Where does that get you?

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 12:32:31

Niminy, that defence would be acceptable if you saw all the bible as a metaphor. What do you believe, what isn't metaphor and how have you decided whether a passage is to be taken at face value or is metaphorical? Do you not concede that over time more and more of the bible is consigned to the metaphor camp as we develop our sense of humanity, make discoveries in science and so on. Do you disagree that the trend for seeing hell as allegorical is a relatively new phenomenon?

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 12:36:29

As for uninformed, I was a Christian for 20+ years and have read the bible a lot. If that's not enough to be informed what else would I need to do?

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 13:04:11

LizzyDay and HeadinHands: Most, if not all religions have a kind of spectrum of believers from those who are very conservative and take everything very literally, to very liberal / progressive who take everything as metaphor, with most people somewhere between the extremes, using the time-honoured combination of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience to work things out. So obviously you'll get different responses depending where people are on that spectrum.

LizzyDay Sat 13-Apr-13 13:22:33

Holo - yes that's my point - everybody believes something different and puts their own slant on it.

Which is fine, as long as people recognise that they are their personal standards and that they have no right to judge others or make laws concerned with 'what God ie me and my gang wants'. There's surely no such thing as 'what God wants' is there, if nobody can agree on what that is?

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 13:33:42

I see Christianity as quite a plastic thing, which is probably one of the reasons it's survived, and grown. That's from an historical POV, not a spiritual one. The plasticity of Christianity is one of the reasons why I think that Christians should be tolerant of each other's views / expressions of faith. I don't see any of this as a bad thing.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 13:36:06

I don't deny that there is a large difference in the way verses are interpreted today, I'm referring to a general shift over time in the way Christians read the verses about hell i.e. more Christians opting for the metaphor translation than would have say 200 years ago. For example your average Christian Joe Bloggs on mumsnet tends to see hell as a parable but your average Christian Joe Bloggs in Victorian times would have rejected such a possibility.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 13:39:43

True. Is that a bad thing?

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 13:41:12

Although obv, bear in mind that the same works across space as through time; Christians in other parts of the world might interpret the Bible v differently.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 13:41:22

No, it's wonderful that it allows itself to be shaped, but I propose that that plasticity is strong evidence for it being man made in that, so far, it evolves alongside humanity albeit a very bumpy ride. If we say 'no, god knew that would happen' how do we excuse him condoning slavery and the rape laws in the OT and the illness thing when he had a fantastic chance to teach us about medicine and farming and anything you can pretty much think of that we benefit from today.

LizzyDay Sat 13-Apr-13 13:49:25

"Although obv, bear in mind that the same works across space as through time; Christians in other parts of the world might interpret the Bible v differently."

Unfortunately that is true - some of the nastier fundamentalists are still around, and don't show any sign of going away.

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 13:49:37

No it's not. It's a phenomenon I use to explain, in part, why I reject the bible as inspired by god. And I'm very grateful that, as a whole, Christians have adapted their views. It's testament to the human capacity to reason and learn beyond where we are today. And that's great. Hope that's clear enough grin

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 20:43:29

Matthew 13 is an interesting chapter to pick a sentence out from in order to take it literally, given that the entire chapter is about metaphors and parables

Interesting? Not really, but in any case, there are plenty of references in other places. Are all these in the metaphor sections too?

Actually, what might be useful is if we could just get a list of which bits of the bible are metaphor and which are truth because otherwise it's terribly confusing for us mortals to work out what is going on.

Matthew 25:41: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." This passage relates to Jesus' judgment of all the world.

Mark 9:43-48: And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched." The reference to fire is repeated three more times in the passage for emphasis.

Luke 16:24: "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." This is a plea described as coming from an inhabitant of Hell.

Revelation 20:13-15: "...hell delivered up the dead which were in them...And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

Revelation 21:8: "But the fearful, and unbelieving ... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 20:52:17

Okay Pedro, a rule of thumb: everything in Revelation is metaphor. The seer is straining at the very edges of language to describe what he has seen, and what we get is 'it was like this....it was like that....' One of the reasons why I am so in love with Revelation, even despite all the death etc.

As for the other passages, what about seeing them as variations on a theme? Or explorations of a concept? There are more literary genres than simply 'metaphor' and 'fact', so why not consider the Bible to contain within it a wealth of literary forms?

And the whole of the gospels of course - clearly metaphor

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 21:19:28

I disagree. As I said, there are more than two literary forms.

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 21:22:09

Are metaphor and truth incompatible? There are a lot of things that can only be expressed through metaphor. Indeed, metaphor is central to the way we use language -- we use metaphors all the time. The phrase 'natural selection', for example, is a metaphor.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 21:29:56

Niminy, yes, I agree totally, there are types of truth which are best expressed in metaphorical / poetic / mythic terms. That's essential to being human IMO. I was meaning that within the Bible there are many literary genres, not just metaphor and so-called neutral report (I don't think any writing is neutral ever, because I don't believe any neutral space exists.)

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 21:31:02

There are a lot of things that can only be expressed through metaphor.

Such as?

In any case, metaphor is open to a great degree of misinterpretation.

Sounds to me like the whole bloody bible is a metaphor.

And no, metaphor and truth aren't incompatible, but they are most certainly not the same thing.

Perhaps we should flip the question and ask which bits are actually true, not metaphor, not ambiguous references but actually true?

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 21:35:47

Pedro, metaphor best describes love. Think about the enormous metaphoric outpouring in love poetry, pop songs etc. if they were replaced by pyschological and physiological accounts of live, the eorld would be a very different place!

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 21:37:56

So, fwiw, and in the full anticipation of your disagreement, I believe that Paul's letters contain accounts of the faith in Jesus of the early church which are historical reflections of that faith, and the Gospels bear witness to the person of Jesus, who was real.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 21:41:07

Sorry for typos; hope it was clear anyway, that love lifts us up where we belong / love is a mystery / love is a battlefield / love makes the world go round / etc. Thinking of the scene in the elephant in Moulin Rouge now! smile

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 21:43:09

Pedro, metaphor best describes love. Think about the enormous metaphoric outpouring in love poetry, pop songs etc. if they were replaced by pyschological and physiological accounts of live, the eorld would be a very different place!

No, you said things which can only be described through metaphor. Love can be described in many non - metaphorical ways.

Redbindy Sat 13-Apr-13 21:45:02

I think hell is something invented by early christians in order to morally blackmail people to join up. The old testament has a completely different take on it to that described by Saul of Tarsus.
Holo, do you have any contemporary proof of the existence of Jesus (the gospels don't count - they contain no eye witness evidence)?

headinhands Sat 13-Apr-13 21:49:38

The strength of out pouring of emotion doesn't prove the deity of the object being loved. If that were the case I've dated quite a few gods. And Go West are divine. smilegrin

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 21:54:18

I believe that Paul's letters contain accounts of the faith in Jesus of the early church which are historical reflections of that faith, and the Gospels bear witness to the person of Jesus, who was real.

We seem to be missing the point that stuff which is written down is not evidence for anything.

joanofarchitrave Sat 13-Apr-13 21:54:43

The point of a metaphor is to make things clearer by relating them to something you can understand. If hellfire is a metaphor, it suggests that the primary features of hell are pain and destruction. If hell is separation from God, metaphors that would occur to me more readily would be ice, deep water, distance, fences/gates/walls, the eye of the needle, fog, mist, silence ... lots of things. But not fire.

It was a very different time. Pain must have been far more of a constant in most people's lives than we in this last hundred years or so in the developed world have to deal with. I really don't think it would be such a stretch that hell would be thought of as a place of eternal physical torture. Which is why my great fear is that there really is an afterlife.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 21:57:01

Pedro, I didn't say some things can only be described metaphorically, I said best described.

Red, I work on the basis of historical plausibility (not my term, but quite a good one nicked from a prominent historical Jesus scholar). So no, before Jesus' death no one wrote about him - but why would they? There was no need to.

HiH, you miss the point: I didn't make any connection between the type of love described in pop songs and God, I cited that type of love
as Something best described metaphorically.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 21:58:19

Pedro, re your post of 21:54; does the same consideration apply to non Christian writers? If so, why, and if not, why not?

Redbindy Sat 13-Apr-13 21:59:35

Holo - Outside of the bible no one wrote about him afterwards. There is no proof he ever existed.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 22:04:07

Obviously, you mean 'outside the nascent Christian tradition', don't you?

This thread on the historical Jesus was done recently, and was disbanded, sadly. I still think that Josephus is mist likely to have mentioned Jesus, and again, think that potential Roman sources fit the historical profile for bring possible, if not probable mentions of him.

Redbindy Sat 13-Apr-13 22:08:06

Historical plausibility? Lets start with the reasons for Joseph and Mary needing to go to Bethlehem, the bible mentions a census that didn't happen and a governor from another era. A more plausible explanation would be inventing a story to fit in with ancient prophesy.

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 22:09:39

Pedro, I wonder if you are confusing evidence and proof? In any case, it would be interesting to know how you would have evidence of any phenomena outside your own experience (and without opening up the philosophical can of worms of the question of whether we can really know anything aside from our own experience, which is the problem of empiricism) without writing?

Metaphor is a fascinating thing. When you compare something to something else it is both like and unlike the thing you are comparing it to. If I say 'my love is like a red, red rose', clearly my love is not a garden flower, nor is he red all over. But he might be beautiful, he might be fragrant (in my dreams grin). He might be fragile, he might be thorny. There is more in the metaphor than I can convey by simply describing him. That's why metaphor is wonderful, because we can suggest a depth of meaning that is simply impossible in factual, literal language. And some of the meanings we can suggest are beyond the capabilities of literal language to convey. Poetry can tell us things that prose can't. There is more to love than neurophysiological processes. And there are some things -- and for me, God is one of them, that can only be talked about in metaphorical terms.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 22:15:39

Red, I hope you'll understand my saying that this subject was done in depth recently, and I haven't got the time or energy to go into that level of detail again. I am very comfortable, though, that the gospel writers portrayed events, times and places to make theological claims about who Jesus was. They weren't interested even slightly in what you probably think of as history. For them, history meant something entirely different, i.e. understanding the present by reference to the past in the light of God.

So don't expect me to defend every detail of the Gospels from an historical POV. To really understand the Gospels, I think, means trying to think like a first century Jew, or at least like a first century person. Otherwise it's all a load of words.

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 22:18:08

Sorry to double post, but just wanted to add that there are large swathes of the bible that can be understood easily without steeping yourself in the 1st c, but to talk about 'history' without having any historical awareness of what history meant in the 1st c is hopelessly anachronistic.

If I was describing to you a picnic spot then I might say it was 'heavenly', that it was like 'being in another world', but when it came down to telling you how to get there I'd say "Take the M25 to Junction 13 and head north up the A13 etc". I might add that you should take sensible shoes as "There's quite a bit of walking at the other end". No matter how pretty it was I'd still be able to speak in plain terms about it.

Since hell is surely important where in the bible do we find the specific information about it and how/why to avoid it?

HolofernesesHead Sat 13-Apr-13 22:40:30

Back, that's why there's so much emphasis on Jesus in the NT. Jesus is portrayed as the way to God, the way to eternal life and love, and therefore of being with God for ever, i.e. Not separated from God. There are loads and loads of stuff about believing in Jesus in the Bible, so, effectively, loads about avoiding hell, although it's not presented as avoiding hell for the sake of avoiding hell, but being forever with and in the one whose essence is love.

niminypiminy Sat 13-Apr-13 22:42:59

But hell is in no sense a picnic spot, is it?

Hell is one of those things that can only be talked about figuratively. The images for hell in the NT come from the burning rubbish dump outside ancient Jerusalem -- they're not an indication of what will actually happen to us after death, more like an indication of what people feared might happen.

joanofarchitrave Sat 13-Apr-13 23:10:43

well, backonly, to be fair that information is there; love the lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul, and love your neighbour as yourself.

So no real information then if we must take these mentions of hell to be metaphor.

What you have is your holy book saying you will be burned. Since that is totally incompatible with a decent god you really must find a way to neutralise it. Claiming that it is all metaphor and that it really means something else entirely is all you can do, but from the outside it looks a little weak.

What do you say to Christians who believe the bible's literal description of a hell of torture? Has their faith deceived them?

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 14-Apr-13 19:10:49

Pedro, re your post of 21:54; does the same consideration apply to non Christian writers? If so, why, and if not, why not?

Yes, of course it is, because writing something down doesn't magically make it true. It doesn't matter who writes it. Doesn't mean it's not true, but you can't say that something must be true because it's written somewhere.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 14-Apr-13 19:15:10

If I say 'my love is like a red, red rose', clearly my love is not a garden flower, nor is he red all over. But he might be beautiful, he might be fragrant (in my dreams ). He might be fragile, he might be thorny.

Precisely the point that you could mean beautiful and fragrant or thorny and untouchable without gloves. Metaphors are hugely ineffective ways of transmitting information because they are open to so much misinterpretation.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 14-Apr-13 19:16:21

There is more to love than neurophysiological processes.

Nope, I'm afraid it's all in your head, quite literally.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 14-Apr-13 19:18:28

Sorry to double post, but just wanted to add that there are large swathes of the bible that can be understood easily without steeping yourself in the 1st c, but to talk about 'history' without having any historical awareness of what history meant in the 1st c is hopelessly anachronistic.

But if you write historically about an event which never took place, I think that we can all agree that this is not history, this is fiction.

niminypiminy Sun 14-Apr-13 20:40:30

Feelings are in your body as well as your head, no? And our experience of love is conditioned by our culture, too. Simply to see our feelings as neurological is to adopt a most impoverished view of them.

I think I would say that the plurality of meanings that metaphors permit makes them much more efficient at conveying information, because so often the information that we need to convey is complex, ambiguous and even contradictory. My love might well be both tender and thorny, both beautiful and transitory, both passionate and fragile. To call him a rose can convey all those things in one concrete noun rather than in a long list of abstract concepts -- and I haven't exhausted the possible connotations of the word rose here, by any means.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 14-Apr-13 20:58:24

Feelings are in your body as well as your head, no? And our experience of love is conditioned by our culture, too. Simply to see our feelings as neurological is to adopt a most impoverished view of them.

Nope, absolutely everything which you experience in this life is based on your brain. Without it you experience nothing. That's quite a simple thing to understand.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 14-Apr-13 20:59:22

Plurality might be great for poetry, but it's absolutely useless for conveying the truth precisely because of its ambiguity.

HolofernesesHead Sun 14-Apr-13 21:15:34

ISTM that we might be back to the arts / sciences divide that often crops up on these threads. I am an artsy person through and through, my favourite subjects at school were English and History, and my degrees are in humanities, mainly text-oriented subjects. So I really love poetry and ideas and expression and exploration, that's what makes my soul sing. To me it's not that the truth expressed / encountered in good literary texts of any genre is any less true than the stuff that people learn in chemistry or maths classes, but it is a totally different type of truth. If poetry doesn't do much for you, that's fair enough.

Funnily enough, I think I'm right in saying that among fundamentalist Christians there's quite a high proportion of computer wizzes, engineers and sciencey type professions that are all about logic and straight line thinking (except even that's a metaphor - d'oh!) smile

niminypiminy Sun 14-Apr-13 21:35:02

As Oscar Wilde said, 'The truth is never pure and rarely simple.' That's why we need figurative language.

But I agree with Holo that we are at an arts/science impasse here. I'm an arts person too and for me the truths that are found in stories and poetry and in the visual arts and in the theatre are just as true and important as those found by scientific investigation.

So for me saying love's nothing but brain activity is to adopt a reductive and impoverished view of an activity, a feeling, a relationship, an inspiration that is at the centre of what I understand to be human.

HolofernesesHead Sun 14-Apr-13 21:56:07

It's funny, isn't it? By the time I left school I'd seen all but two of Shakespeare's plays at the theatre, some several times over, and if you asked me what a particular performance of, say, Twelfth Night was like, I could give some info about the staging, the costumes, the interpretation of characters, the plot etc of the play itself...but if you asked me what I thought of it, you'd get a deeply personal and usually quite animated answer. Both of these responses (the factual info and the personal involvement) are potentially true in different ways, and, IMO, to appreciate a good play you need both, although if I had to choose, I'd go for the personal involvement every time. The first Shakespeare play I saw (Hamlet, when I was pretty young) I
understood only parts of. I'd feel a bit sorry for someone who came out of a good performance and could only convey factual information about it.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 14-Apr-13 22:01:41

I'm not saying that there can't be truth in flowery language, nor that there's no place for it. But simply that as a delivery method of truths it's hugely ineffective because metaphors can be interpreted in many different ways. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but you're clearly not understanding what I'm saying.

So for me saying love's nothing but brain activity is to adopt a reductive and impoverished view of an activity, a feeling, a relationship, an inspiration that is at the centre of what I understand to be human.

Are you so detached from the real world that you can't understand the everything you experience is related to your brain? Every activity, every feeling, every sense you have is interpreted by your brain. And I'll repeat because this is clearly a difficult concept for you. If you remove your brain, you no longer experience anything at all and that is all the proof you should need that love is in the brain.

niminypiminy Sun 14-Apr-13 22:13:58

Pedro, please stop saying that I don't understand you. I understand you very well; it's just that I don't agree with you. And please stop being snarky. It's not big or clever.

It's not that I don't see that we our experiences come to us through our brain. What I am saying is that if that is all we can say about love we have said something so minimally useful in understanding a hugely complex phenomenon that we are barely more enlightened than if we had never said it.

HolofernesesHead Sun 14-Apr-13 22:20:40

Dunno Pedro, if someone were to give me a physiological account if their heightened brain activity wrt me, I'd consider them to have been hugely ineffective at saying 'I love you.'

I know someone who's a brain specialist, who works on brain injuries mostly, and this person says that the brain is a profound mystery into which brain specialists peer shallowly. That's not to knock the work that brain specialists do - it's wonderful, life-giving stuff - but to acknowledge how little we know, in scientific, physiological terms, of what it is that makes us human. To claim more than this is to stray out of scientific knowledge and into philosophy.

HolofernesesHead Sun 14-Apr-13 22:23:32

Just to be clear: straying into philosophy isn't a bad thing by any means. I love philosophy! Just let's be aware of the nature of our conversation...this is the philosophy section, after all...smile

LizzyDay Sun 14-Apr-13 22:27:21

It's not that I don't see that we our experiences come to us through our brain. What I am saying is that if that is all we can say about love we have said something so minimally useful in understanding a hugely complex phenomenon that we are barely more enlightened than if we had never said it.

Trying to understand how the brain has evolved to produce human emotions isn't anything like simple or minimal. It's about as hugely complex as you can get. As we progress our understanding of neuropsychology we get to the core of truth about why we act as we do, and why our similarities and differences exist.

The fact that people study neuropsychology doesn't make them incapable of experiencing and enjoying life, love, emotions, Shakespeare plays etc though!

niminypiminy Sun 14-Apr-13 22:37:38

But I don't agree that neuropsychology will get us to 'the core of truth about why we act as we do, and why our similarities and differences exist'. It may well give us rich insights, but it can't tell us the one truth -- because there isn't one truth. Neuropsychology is good at looking at some things and useless for others. It is pretty bad at understanding how we live as social beings, how we are shaped by and experience ourselves through culture and language. It can't tell us how we ought to act, or why some actions are good, and it can't tell us why some actions are full of meaning, and some are meaningless. It can't tell us what it is like to be someone else. For all these things you need other ways of investigating what it is to be human.

I am just as capable as any religious person of being emotional about a performance, but if you asked me the address of the theatre or the names of the performers I wouldn't try to say that it can only be expressed in terms of feelings. I could even give you a synopsis of the plot. It might not be as much fun as watching it, but the idea that I couldn't tell you what my evening had been like without acting it out on a stage is quite ludicrous.

This is really about not wanting to be held to a meaning of hell in the bible because Christians hold several different descriptions that contradict each other and/or the bible and/or common sense and the moment you pick one that leaves you open to challenge.

Not just hell of course. Every Christian I talk to has a different view of which parts of the bible are literal and which poetry or metaphor. It seems to depend on which bits they would like to be true.

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 07:54:51

Back, I wasn't suggesting that you, or non-believers generally, are incapable of enjoying art. I know so many deeply sensitive and peyry-loving non-religious people! I was just musing on different types of truth and how we experience them.

Your point about there being lots of 'takes' on hell among Christians - yes, you're right. I said on this thread a few days ago that in any religion there is a liberal to conservative spectrum. I can only speak for myself, probably more towards the liberal end of that spectrum. I personally am much more comfortable in a religious tradition that is flexible and open-ended than in one that is always 100% demanding agreement in every detail (I'm c of e); the flip-side of this open-endedness is that other people see things differently to me. Which, in itself, isn't a problem as far as I'm concerned.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Mon 15-Apr-13 08:17:27

Neuropsychology is good at looking at some things and useless for others. It is pretty bad at understanding how we live as social beings, how we are shaped by and experience ourselves through culture and language.

You obviously have no concept of what neuropsychology is. It is excellent at telling us how we live socially, how we are shaped by experience, culture and language.

And as for morality, well actually, morality is directly linked to human wellbeing and human wellbeing is a neurological response to the world. It's a fallacy to think that religion has a stranglehold on morality, it can be linked very precisely to the brain.

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 09:27:38

The person I mentiond last night is a neuropsychologist, Pedro. AIUI neuropsychology is an umbrella term for lots of sub-headings - the person I know works with people who've suffered brain injury. Of course the way of modern medicine is that neuropsychologists, ilke most practicionersm are expert in one field and wouldn't dream of commenting on anything outside that field (oh for a more integrated approach to healthcare in the NHS...sigh....)

Neuropsychoolgy is really interesting, and, as I said last night, life-giving - but to me, it doesn't invalidate the potential truth / wisdom of religion. The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament explore where the 'centre' of a human being is - whether it's in the soul, the heart, the belly, the mind, the body itself - all these are used as ways of saying that as humans, we have a 'centre.' So what if that centre turns out to be the brain? I'm not trying to score cheap points here, I just honestly don't see how this is a problem.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Mon 15-Apr-13 09:43:32

but to me, it doesn't invalidate the potential truth / wisdom of religion.

The 'wisdom' of religion. I don't even want to start on that one!

But even so, truth does not have anything to do with how we experience love, or indeed anything else. You cannot have love without a brain. Try it.... Doesn't work.

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 09:49:14

Okay, forget 'wisdom'.

My point is, Pedro, that your asserting that there is no link between truth and love is a philosophical one, not a scientific one, as I have yet to meet or hear of a scientist who finds it within her professional remit to define 'truth.' Are we back to Pilate's question 'What is truth'? If so, it's a good job we're in the philosophy secion as that's a philosophical question! smile

LizzyDay Mon 15-Apr-13 09:57:12

Neuropsychology is good at looking at some things and useless for others. It is pretty bad at understanding how we live as social beings, how we are shaped by and experience ourselves through culture and language. It can't tell us how we ought to act, or why some actions are good, and it can't tell us why some actions are full of meaning, and some are meaningless.

I disagree - neuropsychology, ethology and animal behaviour are subjects which give huge insight into why animals (including humans) behave socially as they do. I think that understanding the biological dynamics of a society gives a really good pragmatic underpinning for social organisation and justice, and helps us to better understand the more difficult stuff like why societies go to war and generally have disagreements. It is absolutely relevant to understanding what it is to be human.

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 10:00:27

I agree with you Lizzy.

LizzyDay Mon 15-Apr-13 11:28:58

Maybe one of the big differences here is that most atheists don't believe that humans are 'special' - it's just that for the moment, we have the greatest evolutionary advantage in most parts of the world.

This has not always been the case, and could easily change again if say a disease were to take hold that medicine couldn't fix, or if there were a huge climactic change that we couldn't adapt to quickly enough.

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 11:45:42

I suppose I'm quite an eco-person generally (again, I can only speak for myself here, I don't claim to be the voice of Christianity!) and I see recognising the specialness of human beings as a way towards recognising the specialness of all creation ( I use that term loosely). I.e. once we understand ourselves to be beloved of God, we can start to see that all creatures and all creation are beloved of God and therefore start to care for it out of real love. So I see the evolutionary advantage as a mandate to care, nurture and protect. That, to me, is a big part of what it means to be human.

LizzyDay Mon 15-Apr-13 12:02:51

So I see the evolutionary advantage as a mandate to care, nurture and protect.

But that's only ever going to work from a human self-preservation perspective really, isn't it? If giant cockroaches started taking over the world and ate OUR food, we'd try and eradicate them pretty quickly. And if the cockroaches were to win and kill us off, does that mean that god would have decided that cockroaches are now his chosen species as we didn't do a good enough job?

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 12:12:47

Well...! grin I don't know! All I do know is that I believe that God calls me and all people to know his love and to make his love known in all the world and to all the world, and to all creation.

The history of Christian martyrs teaches us that plenty of Christians have followed the way of Jesus to death and not gone for their own self-preservation. Maybe self-preservation isn't the be all and end all; maybe there's something bigger to aim for. How that would work out in a giant cockroach scenario is anyone's guess.

I'd also want to think a bit more about the 'chosen people' tag - it's not that one group of people is chosen and another isn't - again, I'd see an ever-widening awareness that all people are chosen by God, an evolutionary process that starts with knowing ourselves to be chosen. Maybe we can only know all people to be chosen or beloved of God if we've known it first of ourselves.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Mon 15-Apr-13 12:16:09

My point is, Pedro, that your asserting that there is no link between truth and love is a philosophical one, not a scientific one, as I have yet to meet or hear of a scientist who finds it within her professional remit to define 'truth.' Are we back to Pilate's question 'What is truth'? If so, it's a good job we're in the philosophy secion as that's a philosophical question!

I agree that truth fits in this category because it's a poorly defined word. But love does not. Love and truth are entirely separate things.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Mon 15-Apr-13 12:31:57

Let's put the giant cockroaches to the side for one moment then and take a real world example.

Giant Pandas. They are endangered, partly due to human intervention, however, they haven't adapted to their changing environment and the biggest problem is that they flat out refuse to procreate. Why should we be spending so much time and energy on a species which is trying so damned hard to wipe itself out?

"But I want my children to be able to see a real Giant Panda", I hear you screaming. Well tough. For starters, how many people have actually seen a real Giant Panda in the wild anyway? Secondly, I would have loved to see a Dodo in the wild, but I can't because, like 99% of all species which ever lived, they have become extinct because they didn't adapt. Oh well.

Human intervention is not really any different to the intervention of any other animal which has caused extinctions. Predators turning up on previously 'safe' islands for example. It just happens that the major evolutionary advantage we developed was the ability to manipulate our environment in previously unprecedented ways, meaning we could advance more quickly without having to wait for genetic mutations.

We are not special in any way other than we happen to be the most powerful animals on the planet right now. That doesn't give us a responsibility, it just means we are winning at the moment. It's a harsh truth that we live in a brutal Darwinian world. Luckily for us, we're pretty good at this game!

LizzyDay Mon 15-Apr-13 12:32:55

Re self preservation and Christian martyrs, I don't think you'd have nearly so many martyrs in the world if they hadn't somehow been convinced of a better afterlife, do you?

Re being chosen, yes I'd agree that most modern denominations of Christianity seem to be saying something along the lines of god loves all people, not just active Christians. But there does seem to be a definite emphasis on people, not cockroaches - I wonder why that would be grin

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 14:07:41

True re. martyrs and heavenly afterlife, Ellie - if we believe in heaven that changes how we see this world completely.

There has actually been quite a big move in many mainstream Christian denomiations in the UK and USA over the past 5 - 10 years towards 'creation care', environmental respoonsibility, call it what you will. The C of E has it now written in as one of the 'five marks of mission' (i.e. things that we Christians are called to do). I think, tbh, we're only just really (as Christians) starting now to be aware of this, but if you read the Psalms, they're full of it - the heavens are telling forth the glory of God! (Psalm 19).

Pedro, no offence meant, but I would much rather see the world as I do and not as you do! I do see responsibility built in to what it means to being human. And for that I'm glad!

LizzyDay Mon 15-Apr-13 14:22:11

The thing is that it makes perfectly pragmatic common sense to take good care of the environment if you want to be able to live in it, farm it, breathe clean air etc.

Doesn't have to be connected to religion at all. (Unless you're a buddhist and don't squash cockroaches of course!)

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 14:35:38

True, Lizzy - people do things for all sorts of reasons, don't they?

Of the people I know who have an environmental conscience, it's linked in to some sense of responsibility / belonging within the world / love of and connection to the world. I'm not knocking any of that, very far from it - I am so glad that people do have an environmental conscience - but the thing that i am saying is that this is how I, as a Christian, view my relationship with the world, that it is deeply embedded in my faith.

If someone believes that god rewards faith then dying for their religion is in their own interest in the long run. The sad part is that people have died for all the different religions - even the wrong ones.

People die for Islam and they don't believe in Jesus as the son of god do they so they can't possibly qualify. It's not just a difference in names.

Then there are all the Mormons and the worshippers of Zeus and the Hindu gods and people who worship snakes, bulls, volcanoes, the sun and so on. All sincere and all brimming with faith and all completely wrong.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Mon 15-Apr-13 16:41:41

Pedro, no offence meant, but I would much rather see the world as I do and not as you do! I do see responsibility built in to what it means to being human. And for that I'm glad!

And that's fine as long you realise that just because something is appealing to you, doesn't mean it's right.

I don't believe we have any 'responsibility' at all, we're just another life form on the Earth, we are no more responsible for the Earth's wellbeing than an ant or a snail. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't take care of the earth in order to preserve ourselves.

My point was that we shouldn't be expending energy saving animals purely for our own selfish desire to keep them around or for our power trip of controlling nature.

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Apr-13 17:22:12

So do you think that your form of atheism sees human life as basically self-oriented?

I can't imagine myself ever thiking like that...

LizzyDay Mon 15-Apr-13 17:27:23

I think we have a responsibility not to wreck the environment just because it makes sense, and we're the only species in a position to change things. But for me it's a self-imposed responsibility, not one handed to us from on high.

Of course problems arise with this because no-one is ultimately 'in charge' and everyone thinks everyone else should make the compromises, not them. And as ecology is dynamic, by definition not everyone can be a winner. confused

differentnameforthis Tue 16-Apr-13 06:58:05

You are living in Hell at the moment.

Where else could be as bad as this world we live in?

Where people are killed running a marathon in honour of victims of a tragedy?

Where children are murdered by children, raped by adults for their won sick means?

Where people who raped a 16yr old are getting more sympathy & support than the victim?

Where diseases/famine are rife.

With diseases with no cure kill people everyday.

headinhands Tue 16-Apr-13 07:32:40

Yeah different, and all watched by a god who does nothing.

CoteDAzur Tue 16-Apr-13 09:10:26

"Hell is separation from God"

So you believe that atheists are living in hell?

If so, I can assure you that "hell" is a perfectly pleasant place.

CoteDAzur Tue 16-Apr-13 09:15:14

"your form of atheism sees human life as basically self-oriented?"

Are you trying to ask if people are selfish beings?

Btw, there are no "forms of atheism", since atheism isn't a doctrine people subscribe to. We are people with out own minds, who have listened to the Abrahamic God hypothesis and didn't find it convincing.

CoteDAzur Tue 16-Apr-13 09:22:56

"your asserting that there is no link between truth and love is a philosophical one, not a scientific one"

No. True (as opposed to false) is an objective property whereas love is a subjective one. We can love stuff that is true and also those that are false, just as we can hate what is true as well as what is false. They are not linked in any way I can think.

It is of course possible to link everything together in some way, but I think it is fair to say that truth and love are two concepts more unrelated than most.

ah yes "Separation from God".

Being free to make my own decisions.

Not having to strain to fit facts into the 'truth'.

If I were to see something today demonstrating that everything I know is incorrect then it would be an interesting and exciting time. For a religious person I imagine it would be a dreadful blow they might not recover from.

I can learn new things without fear. For a really devout person to watch/read about science/history must be like one of those horror films where any moment something nasty may leap out at you.

Not having to work at justifying/excusing religious morality.

As for living in hell now - well this world is not always a very nice place, but since I'm not religious I don't have to accept that it must stay that way - that all the nastiness is part of god's plan.
We may or may not fix things, but we could if we tried hard enough. It would help if we didn't have people holding us back by preaching acceptance of how things are and promising that it will be better in the afterlife.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Tue 16-Apr-13 09:56:42

It is of course possible to link everything together in some way

Via Kevin Bacon!

ellie1234 Wed 24-Apr-13 10:01:04

Try reading Rob Bells book. It worked for me!

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