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Old 02-14-2016   #31
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
... aking a 'wait and see' or 'I'm open to the possibility' approach, or simply admitting there really is no way of our monkey brains understanding the universe to the degree monotheism requires, will always make more sense to me than just 100% committing to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Scientology, etc.
Excuse my clumsiness in cutting the text there. This seems an unusual perspective, that is, that the division between theism and atheism is that the former says we can understand the universe and the latter says we probably can't. The whole 'god of the gaps' argument (or whatever it is) that is routinely hurled at theists is surely predicated on the very opposite of this, along the lines: "Our monkey brains will eventually (soon) understand the universe to such a degree that there will be no need of mysteries such as God."

I am not actually saying that either side has the monopoly on such arrogance, but it's certainly not clear cut. If you look at the history of the philosophy of religion you'll find much controversy around precisely this point - whether human reason is capable of understanding the mystery of God or not. To cite one example, William of Ockham (these day beloved of atheists) was employing his famous razor precisely as part of an attempt to defend faith in God from reliance on pseudo-rationalisations. On the other hand, this attitude is derided by many theists as fideism (a reliance on faith only), which they think has been hugely detrimental to the understanding of theology.

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
The idea atheists are as close minded as Christians just doesn't hold up to me, as somebody saying they don't really know what the universe is will command more respect from me than 'God did it!'.
My own personal experience is that atheists are more closed-minded than theists. Of course, I live in the UK, and maybe this would be different elsewhere, but I can talk with theists of my acquaintance about all the things I can talk about with atheists and more. I should add that I often groan in exasperation when theists are so quick and vehement about silencing or disowning the more open-minded and thoughtful among their ranks.

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
There are jerk atheists who act with a Christian level of certainty they know everything for sure, but overall it's a more humble view than suggesting you 100% not only know that there is definitely a higher power. but what it is called, its elaborate backstory, its family tree, countries of preference and all sorts of stuff there is clearly no way of knowing. They're not even saying a god did it. They're saying a specific being called God did it all and most of the time their specific god of choice conveniently matches up with the dominant religion of their household or country. What an amazing coincidence.
These are all tribal gods embodying cultural order. Blake has mythologised this understanding of God as Urizen:

Urizen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I had a link somewhere to a creationist website that gives tips on how to explain the strange bits of Genesis to non-creationist friends. It was sent to me by a friend as something amusing, and, of course, it is, if you're in the right mood (can't find the link now), but I actually found it unbearably tragic, that so many people can be performing tortured mental gymnastics to try and get a bad translation to make sense. Human insecurity can do some very strange things. Anyway, I couldn't help wondering how many creationists are bilingual, because as soon as you are, you become familiar with the very basic fact that just about every translation that exists contains mistakes and distortions, and there are a high proportion that are simply very bad.

In The Unknown God, F.J. Mayers analyses the original Hebrew of Genesis. Among many other things, he shows that the text itself is presented by its author as an allegory. I'm sure there are other books that also analyse the Hebrew of Genesis, but that's the one I've read.

Anyway, in summary: the popular understanding of just about everything is a travesty. Patience is required to understand anything in any depth, but this is rare.

Poem by Philip Larkin:

To Put One Brick Upon Another by Philip Larkin - Famous poems, famous poets. - All Poetry

Great poem. Very true. If we assume there's no point, then this becomes self-evident. If we work under the assumption there is a point, we might, in the end, be disappointed, or we might, by patience, learn something that we would not have done otherwise.

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
In debates on here it always comes down to the idea that the central spiritual dichotomy is between Christians vs people who are convinced there is no higher power, and I can find it frustrating as I find both sides limited, even if overall I think the latter category are generally speaking far more sense and working with less cultural bias.
I agree that both sides are limited. The path I have taken in life is that, among many other things, the argument from reason has led me to think that atheism in its hard materialist form cannot be workable (and I wonder what it really is apart from this form). That is to say, for me the concept of 'speaking sense' precludes atheism. We must at least have a universe in which 'speaking sense' is a possibility to believe that we're doing so.

"As the Director of one of the five greatest museums in our Eastern States has more than once remarked to me, From the Stone Age until now, what a decline!" - Ananda Coomaraswamy

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Old 02-14-2016   #32
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

One serious problem with the approach that claims we can know little of 'God' because of our limited epistemic capacities is that it runs the risk of making the idea utterly irrelevant.

For most people worship and belief involves some sort of link between humans and a Deity. They assume or ask for divine intervention, justice, redemption (here or in an afterlife) and so on.

If God is pushed back so far into the epistemological fog, then it is difficult to understand why anyone would be interested in Him. Presumably He has some sort of interest in human affairs, so we are then obliged to ask what they are and how we should act in regard to them.

Negative theology may be a tactic designed to protect God or the idea of God from the criticism of Materialism and Empiricism but it may also render it useless in regard to human conduct.
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Old 02-14-2016   #33
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
Excuse my clumsiness in cutting the text there. This seems an unusual perspective, that is, that the division between theism and atheism is that the former says we can understand the universe and the latter says we probably can't.
My division was different to that of the one between atheism and theism, which I would admire more in an agnostic-leaning open minded strain. It was between atheism and Christianity, or atheism and Islam. Not seeing reason to seriously entertain the idea of there being a deity is to me more logical a life path than strongly believing in a very specific model of a god called 'God' and worshipping 'him'. Believing there is perhaps a higher power makes more sense to me than believing that a man called Jesus died for our sins and shall return one day. I can understand why somebody would look at our world and suspect the former, but the latter seems so ridiculously specific, and there isn't any reason to believe in it over any other myth. It may be true, in the same way that every single work of fiction may be true, and our senses have skewed them wrong in the process of translating reality, but that isn't enough call to base my entire life around the specific Bible mythology. Especially because, as Morrissey said, it says nothing to me about my life.


Quote
My own personal experience is that atheists are more closed-minded than theists.
This couldn't be more different to my experience. It is scarce I have heard a Christian or Muslim actually articulate why they believe what they believe, beyond the vague notion that following tradition is good. Materialist scientific institutions (and historical institutions) have their own dogma, and I have no doubt that many of the scientific truths our society clings to are totally wrong (my suspicions about the pyramids are generally considered insane), but the pigheadedness of these institutions could never hope to compare with that of the religious institutions in our society, which are horrible and close-minded almost beyond parody.

Quote
I agree that both sides are limited. The path I have taken in life is that, among many other things, the argument from reason has led me to think that atheism in its hard materialist form cannot be workable
Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity. Not materialism. Somebody could be an atheist and believe in ghosts, goblins or fairies. Personally I interchangeably refer to myself as an atheist or an extremist agnostic. I am open to the possibility that deities exist, but I'm also open to the possibility that Cthulhu exists, and I see equal evidence for him and the Judeo-Christian God. I don't consider myself a materialist at all, but my suspicion is that there is a lot more to our universe than 'God' and that the truth is something nobody has stumbled on.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 02-14-2016   #34
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

James- I agree with a lot of what you're saying but I honestly don't think most people who identify as Christian have many firmly held beliefs or even that many theories. I think a lot of them even become atheists when their mood calls for it. I think it's mostly vague hopes and fears.

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Old 02-14-2016   #35
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
James- I agree with a lot of what you're saying but I honestly don't think most people who identify as Christian have many firmly held beliefs or even that many theories. I think a lot of them even become atheists when their mood calls for it. I think it's mostly vague hopes and fears.
Francis Spufford, whose book is reviewed here:

Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford – review | Books | The Guardian

claims to be a fairly representative mainstream British Christian. I've read the book. It's well written. I was also struck by how close to atheism (as I understand it) his position really is. There seemed to be very little in it. One of his refrains is "and yet": "Yes, it is all like that, life is horrible, death is the end. And yet..."

That kind of thing.

"As the Director of one of the five greatest museums in our Eastern States has more than once remarked to me, From the Stone Age until now, what a decline!" - Ananda Coomaraswamy
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Old 02-15-2016   #36
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Malone View Post
Negative theology may be a tactic designed to protect God or the idea of God from the criticism of Materialism and Empiricism but it may also render it useless in regard to human conduct.
Perhaps useless in effecting human conduct from the standpoint of acting as an omnipresent moral teacher and enforcer. Yet there lay some value in realizing that the human animal, like all animals, is subject to physical and mental limitations. It serves to keep us humble, to remind us that what we know or think we know is only the narrowest slice of what actually *is*.

The person who claims "There is no God" speaks with the same false assurance and lack of knowledge as the one who claims "There is a God". Neither know for sure. Words could be minced over burden of proof, or the folly of proving a negative, but the point I'm trying to make is that both statements ultimately represent opinion, nothing more. Safer, I think, to admit that we are incapable of detecting a God (or Gods) in a reliable, repeatable, and relateable manner.

That's part of the appeal of Lovecraft, I think. The idea of God (or Gods) so alien to our human experience, so beyond our capability to fathom, that their mere presence is sufficient to drive us utterly mad.
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Old 02-15-2016   #37
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Fenris Technique View Post
Safer, I think, to admit that we are incapable of detecting a God (or Gods) in a reliable, repeatable, and relateable manner.
But isn't that the rub. That would be the Gods choice. Why does a god make themselves undetectable? What is the point - to make life more interesting? Isn't it easier to believe that an undetectable god is simply a god that doesn't exist. Also, why does a god need faith? Why does a god need worship?

Those are the things that I struggle with.

Souphead.
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Old 02-16-2016   #38
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post

"At the last, soul itself is the longing of the soulless for redemption." - Theodor Adorno
Thanks. I remember it being part of Minima Moralia found here:

https://www.marxists.org/reference/a...51/mm/ch03.htm

but I think it refers to the bourgeois.
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Old 02-16-2016   #39
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Souphead View Post
Also, why does a god need faith? Why does a god need worship?

Those are the things that I struggle with.

Souphead.
These are pertinent questions, that lead to other questions. What is faith? What is worship?

God needing or wanting something would seem incongruent with his essential Plenitude or fullness in-him/her/Itself. If God were to lack anything then certainly It would fall short of Its own divinity.

It is often merely humans that need to feel that some idea they hold dear is worshipped or otherwise paid respect to. God has nothing to do with it.

Or, to turn that around, the word 'god' has nothing to do with It.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
-Shaykh Ibn Al 'Arabi

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Old 02-17-2016   #40
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

While i don't think believing in God will necessarily make one a better person, i imagine that it will attune one to the possibility that there are ways to describe one's personhood other than the limits of personhood.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
-Shaykh Ibn Al 'Arabi

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