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20th May and The Rapture

(16 Posts)
ElBurroSinNombre Wed 25-May-11 13:12:34

Am I alone in being slightly peeved that I had to explain to my children that the world was not going to end on Saturday. As an atheist so it was not that difficult for me to explain why I thought that it was very improbable. I would be interested to hear what Christian MN'ers told their kids and the questions that the kids will have asked (like Why is our version of Christianity correct and Harold Camping's version wrong?). I was asked something similar by my kids myself (i.e. How did I know better than Camping - after all Camping talks with god). What strikes me about many of religious views of the world is that they are essentially very very egotistical. They always put mankind and the self at the centre of the universe (for instance God speaking to people and guiding them-why?). Is it too frightening for some to accept that we must make our own meaning in life?
Also I am surprised that the media encouraged Camping so much - in a perverse way it was very cruel and to me a bit like the X factor - someone who is seemingly mentally ill encouraged to pursue an impossible dream.

hiddenhome Wed 25-May-11 16:27:27

We are a Christian family and I told my dcs well before Saturday that it was a load of rubbish and no such thing was going to happen.

The Bible instructs us not to try to foretell the future and Harold Camping is just a nut as far as we're concerned. I caught ds1 telling ds2 (who is only 6) that we were all going to heaven on Saturday and now ds2 is bitterly disappointed because we're not there now hmm

ds1 and his friends had all been frightening each other in school about this and the last week has actually been lovely because ds1 has been behaving himself impeccably - just in case grin

Christianity isn't egotistical, but some Christians are and some are just plain misguided.

madhairday Wed 25-May-11 17:09:34

Agree with hidden. It says in the bible that no one knows the day and hour of Jesus' return. The whole rapture idea is a very dodgy translation of one small passage which is referring to something contextual. I didn't really discuss it with my dc as it didn't come up, it was really a non issue. I feel sorry for Camping, but many people are deluded and then disappointed for all sorts of reasons.

As for the egotistical thing. Well yes, Christianity puts people at the heart of human history, for we believe people were created to be in relationship with God, and life is about relationships. If that's egotistical, not sure why that's a bad thing - putting effort into interactions with everyone we meet and putting energy into treating every person as valuable.

Agreed about the meeja hyping up Camping etc - just wrong.

ElBurroSinNombre Wed 25-May-11 19:05:21

madhairday: I feel it is egotistical because of scientific advances we now know that all living things are very closely related. We roughly know when a species first appeared and from which other species it evolved. Because of this knowledge we also know that there is nothing special about mankind per se - we are just another type of animal that evolved because of environmental pressures. Why would god choose to talk to us exclusively and also encourage us to kill other animals as a part of rituals in his name (rituals surrounding killing animals are a part of many religions)? That to me is egotistical quite apart from all of the ideas that religious people have of being guided and spoken to by god.

hiddenhome Wed 25-May-11 21:45:00

Christianity is about being obedient to God and serving others. Any religion can become egotistical if you allow it. I find that I focus on others far more since I became a Christian than when I didn't believe.

The ritual of killing animals isn't part of Christianity, but was a Hebrew tradition that took place thousands of years ago.

Personally, I think that we shouldn't place ourselves above any other living thing, including animals, but that we have been charged with caring for them and the environment, which we should carry out with care and humanity. All living things should be respected, as each animal values its life as much as we value ours.

A lot of Christians do believe in the theory of evolution and I find that there is a common thread that links all living things which I can feel when I care for my animals. This is why I believe that all living things should be respected.

ElBurroSinNombre Thu 26-May-11 11:14:49

IMO we have not been charged with caring for animals. Our species is engaged in a struggle with them for survival. It is a struggle that we as humans generally win because of our superior intelligence and adaptibility to different environments. This enables us to exploit animals and use them as commodoties. Ritualistic sacrifice and eating of animals is a part of that and something that exists in a lot of the world's cultures and religions (including Christianity). Anyway I digress.
Most religions, including Christianity, believe in 'human exceptionalism', i.e. humans are special, made in god's image etc. Therefore god treats us differently to other species and our lives are considered more significant than those of other species. Given what we now know, this view is not only at odds with the facts, but also IMO very egotistical.

AMumInScotland Thu 26-May-11 11:32:13

Humans are exceptional because they are self-aware and capable of a moral understanding of the world, and therefore the way they choose to live thier lives has a level of significance which is different from the lives that animals live. We have more responsibility for our actions, because we are capable of making choices and understanding the consequences.

As to Camping, his views are very fringe, so it's quite easy for most Christians to distance ourselves from him. even most biblical Christians would say that we are told clearly that we will not know when it will happen so we must always be ready, not that there is a fixed date which is knowable in advance.

hiddenhome Thu 26-May-11 11:36:38

That's your opinion, but one that isn't shared by a great many people. Unfortunately human beings are naturally egotistical because they possess self awareness and the ability to think in a way that other animals aren't able to.

Like I said before, each living thing values its own life as much as the next living thing, but humans have greater brainpower so are bound to think that they are topdog, regardless of religious belief.

I do feel that the lives of my dh and dcs are more important than my chickens though and I'd be unnatural if I felt otherwise I think.

I don't feel that religion encourages egoism any more than being in business or farming or having a particular philosophy does.

The first Christians, Desert Fathers/Mothers and the Christian Monastic tradition all teach that surrendering the ego and personal gratification, love towards others, service to others and being humble are the core beliefs that we should all try to follow.

ElBurroSinNombre Thu 26-May-11 16:01:00

I don't care if my opinions are widely shared - that fact alone does not invalidate them at all - so why mention it. If we are going to generalise about the masses, many people do not think very deeply about things and just accept blindly what someone else has told them. You may even go so far to say that many religious people have these characteristics.
I am glad that you accept that we are naturally egotistical but you haven't really addressed why we as a species would deserve special treatment from a god if one really existed. I can't really think of a sound argument for this given that all species are so closely related and share common ancestors. Isn't the truth the very idea of a benevalent god who loves and cares for us, guides us etc., is a projection of our own inner desires as humans?

AMumInScotland Thu 26-May-11 16:22:43

ElBurro - do you not think that self-awareness makes humans different from other animals in an important way then? Not "better", not "more important", but significantly different.

And don't you think that, if a God or gods exist, then they would be capable of interacting with a self-aware species capable of abstract and/or moral thought in a very different way than how they could interact with other species?

I don't see that these ideas are particularly egotistical, beyond believing that self-awareness is important and makes us "special", which I think all humans believe.

ElBurroSinNombre Thu 26-May-11 16:45:13

It can be argued that we don't really know how self aware other species are, we are just scratching the surface of that. There is a chapter in the book Super Freakonomics that describes an experiment done on some monkeys where they display some behavour that many would regard as remarkably human. I won't go into detail but they were shown to be able to learn about the value of money, were able to change what food they bought when prices changed and committed acts of theft and prostitution. These findings are really not that surprising given that we share common ancestors but show a degree of self awareness in the monkeys that we would not have expected.
To turn your question on its head why would a god interact with us? That is why it is egotistical - evolution shows we are not special at all. And as others have stated on other threads, if a god did interact with us it would involve changing the states of physical matter in order to communicate. This involves magic and would violate the laws of physics that we all really know are true.

AMumInScotland Thu 26-May-11 17:00:05

If a god created the world in the hope that self-aware creatures would evolve, then why wouldn't they want to interact with the results? Perhaps god also interacts with other species in some way - I'd be interested to see the research you mention, though I'd guess it was chimps rather than monkeys, as they tend to be the closest to humans inbehavioural terms.

As to the laws of physics - well, I know less about them than I do about biology, but I don't see why there should't be a mechanism by which god could affect humans, and be perceived in some way. After all, magic is only science we don't understand yet.

ElBurroSinNombre Thu 26-May-11 17:22:44

What you are saying sounds more like hopeful speculation. Yes it is possible but if you take a rational approach to the world, then you cannot believe in things that there is no evidence for.

The basic argument against god's intervention, is that if god really intervenes in life then he must do so by altering physical matter, because that is the medium in which reality manifests. An external party putting thoughts into your head would involve changing the states of neurons in your brain. This violates what we know is true about the physical world because the changes in the states of neurons in your brain are all caused by your body, the way it works and its reactions to various stimuli.
If these things really happened then we would not be able to rely on the things that we know are true on a daily basis just in case god was intervening again. That is what I mean by magic and has been stated by others on here most people actually believe the rational explanation (to get back on track - that is the reason why many of us believe that Harold Camping is mentally ill - because we know that he has not been in communion with god).

AMumInScotland Thu 26-May-11 20:53:39

Ah well, we'll have to differ then. I wasn't claiming to have evidence that what I believe is true, so yes of course it is "hopeful speculation", and based on things that you would undoubtedly conclude proved I was mentally ill as well.

I'm not sure why I bother with these threads - I come in with the idea that people actually want to understand about religious faith, and that they will try to understand my point of view even if they can never share it. But no, it's just "I'm right, you can't prove what you say so you are wrong, and there is no point trying to understand your motivations"

ElBurroSinNombre Thu 26-May-11 21:48:42

I don't think that I have really said anything that is offensive to you. I have been very polite compared to some of the atheists who post on here. A message board is a place to exchange views and we do not always have to agree in the end. Why is it always the way in these discussions that religious people take the 'I'm offended',' I don't like confrontation' line when a difficult question is posed. The question in the last post was how does god intervene without affecting physical matter? And if you think he does intervene in the physical world why was Camping wrong - surely he could intervene for him as well? The thing that puzzles me is that if you really accept that belief is really just hopeful speculation why waste time and energy pursuing it? Without being patronising, I am guessing the answer to that is that it makes you feel better - but while this maybe true it says nothing about the validity of your arguements for the existence of god.
If science is anything it is the pursuit of the truth in a controlled, testable, disciplined and non emotive way and IMO is the real path to enlightenment.

AMumInScotland Fri 27-May-11 15:20:35

No, I'm not offended. If I'm being a bit nippy it's in frustration that I'm not managing to explain myself well enough.

I think to explain how I think God can intervene, I'd have to try to explain how I picture God and the universe to start with.

I think that the universe is inside God, and that God is all through everything in the universe. If you picture the universe as a sponge and God as a bucket of water, that would be close. So the sponge is inside the water, but the water is also inside the sponge. Actually you probably ought to try to get rid of the bucket from the image, as that leads to questions of what the bucket is made of and what's outside of it grin But then you have to imagine the water all staying in place without the bucket... it's not a great analogy, but it's the best I can manage.

So God isn't outside of the physical world, but an integral part of it. As to how God could communicate with humans, I think that the communication is either a part of the universe that we can detect but not really understand, like the background radiation, or something that we can theorise about but not detect yet, like the Higgs-Boson particle, or something else that we haven't even theorised about yet. But it would be a part of the physical universe, not something "else".

As to why Camping was wrong - well, it's not simple, since if I believe that God can communicate with humans (imperfectly but noticeably) then I have to say that either Camping thought it was God speaking but was wrong, or that he misinterpreted what he heard. In mainstream denominations, people are encouraged to weigh up what they think God is saying to them against what the church as a whole teaches, what the Bible says, what their reason and morality tell them. And if what they think God says totally contradicts everything else, then they should think very carefully about it before acting on it. I dont believe that, if the end of the world was coming, God would tell one person about it - it would either be a complete surprise for everyone (most likely), or would be signposted in a way which did not leave any room for doubt (less likely). For one person to decide that God has told him alone something so important for everyone is massive egotism, and ought to make them think "Hang on did I get that right?"

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