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Old 03-15-2017   #81
Mithras
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

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The argument you're making here is basically that atheist should have a natural tendency toward amorality, which is demonstrably untrue.
Naturalistic atheism or physicalism do, indeed, lead to moral anti-realism (i.e., there are no objective moral values) and its various branches (e.g., relativism, emotivism, moral nihilism, and much more -- but point being there're no objective moral values).

Quote Originally Posted by Ucasuni View Post
Atheism is not prescriptive (just as non-unicornism is not). Period.
There are atheistic religions or metaphysical schemes, such as some schools of thought in the Dharma, that can give found to normative ethics. For example, the principle of "Ahimsa" (nonviolence) is promoted in early Ch'an for karmic reasons to secure better rebirth. This is called "consequentialism".

Granted, in a naturalistic atheism, one cannot reconcile normativity with naturalism, and all ethical schemes become illegitimate.

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It is immediately obvious that there is some struggle understanding this fact, as evidence by your argument that atheism requires that one behave as if there is no consequential afterlife.
Naturalistic atheism does have a higher probability of delegitimatizing prescriptive arguments for compassion. It merely becomes fancy or empty rhetoric then

Quote
As I said, religion by contrast, is dogmatic.
Not really. One can argue the presupposed belief in scientism and materialism are also dogmatic, due to unfalsifiability (but then again this ties into your epistemology), but I wouldn't go that far. One simply puts forth metaphysical claims and then substantiates them.

Consider Schopenhauer... He was quite a religious man, reading the Upanishads every night.

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"To the degree that we have a natural capacity for cruelty, religion amplifies this capacity (by providing external and putatively divine justifications) and, more importantly, focuses it." [emphasis added]
That's a criticism of "divine command theory", which does not define the totality of Western traditions. You still have Gnosticism or similar traditions like Mazdakism or Manichaeism, for example, which proceed by way of dualistic cosmology. Dualistic cosmologies can become quite convoluted and complex, and they are not as simplistic as adherents of Abrahamic faiths make them out to be.

You also have the Dharmic negative consequentialist system I put forth.

Quote
Most religions (and certainly the Abrahamic religions) are more than just words on a page. They are also institutional, and institutions CAN (and HAVE) compelled behavior. For you to say that religion has no agency as if that were an absolute fact is...um, deeply problematic.
Religions evolve, but I think Ibrahim's point is the growth of moral nihilism and physicalism are worrying, which I heartily agree with.

You are not going to be able to reconcile naturalism with normativity without preternatural or supernatural aspects in the nature of reality to give ground of all values.

Last edited by Mithras; 03-15-2017 at 12:39 PM..
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Old 03-15-2017   #82
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

I seem to have reignited a very interesting conversation. And dear Revenant, I apologize if I came across as thinking your comment annoyed me personally. I really just wanted to take the opportunity to explore the issue a bit further. I, too, meant no antagonism by it - except maybe to New Atheists such as Hitchens.

I just ask that we consider the possibility that what we, in our modern and/or post-modern culture, accept as "normal" and "non-prescriptive" ways of being that may in fact be shaped by philosophies and actively created value systems that we hardly ever think about, so pervasive are they. Certainly, I would consider Hitchen's faith (because, at its root, that is what it really is) prescriptive. Right-thinking people do not believe tripe such as religion. We have arrived at the fundamental truth and it would be wise for all to follow.

Again, I come back to the idea that religion is not the problem, being human is. We have tendencies to good and evil. And we are social beings. We organize, create institutions. It's what we do. And more often than not that is for the better. I have trouble seeing that religious institutions amplify the human capacity for cruelty any more than any other human institution.

The greatest perpetrators of atrocity in the twentieth century (if not in the history of humankind) were active opponents of institutional religion. Again, yes, one can argue that Marxism/Leninism/Stalinism was an emergent property of the Judeo-Christian culture, but mostly because it sought to "immanentize the eschaton," as an old phrase put it. If you're going to blame Christianity for Stalin, what can't Christianity be blamed for. (This reminds me of certain people who, whenever a problem of any kind, be it social or individual, is brought up have a way of tying it back to there most hated politician or political party.)

Let me counter the indictment of religion by stating again that some of the worst atrocities committed in human history were perpetrated in the name of philosophies that sought to destroy historical and institutional religions. In the case of Marxism/Leninism/Stalinism/Maoism, it was in the name of an aggressively atheistic political philosophy. In the case of Hitler, it was in the name of a distorted Nietzschean superman philosophy with heavy doses of Germanic paganism. And, yes, I recognize, Hitler played off of Christian bigotry to accomplish his goal and that most who called themselves religious could have done more to oppose it. However, the philosophy behind Naziism was generally anti-Christian, seeking to replace it with a religion of the state.

Anyway, I doubt that I will persuade anyone of my point of view who is not inclined to it anyway. Nonetheless, it is still a valuable discussion and I look forward to a civilized debate on these issues. It's very thought-provoking.

BTW - the ice pick was used extensively to lobotomize patients in mental hospitals in the US during the late 1940s and 1950s. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

"What lay behind me was no longer any normal, familiar life, that everyday life out of which the impulse to pray raises us, with still at the back of our minds that whensoever we wish we can return. A void was behind me. And in front a wall, a wall of darkness." Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

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Old 03-15-2017   #83
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Staaz View Post
We have tendencies to good and evil.
"Good and evil" are largely religious concepts.

I think the best way to discuss religion is to start at the bottom with epistemology & metaphysics and then work up towards ethics and sociological implications.

You are starting at the top and focusing on its surface, the tip of the "iceberg", and making some heavy-handed assumptions such as 'good and evil' existing.

The question I've been asking repeatedly, "Does naturalism or materialism preclude the possibility of establishing objective moral values?" I would say yes.
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Old 03-15-2017   #84
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Thank you for those thoughts Arthur.

Upon reflection on your statement that religion is not the problem, rather, it is being human that is the problem, I must agree.

I would independently add that since religion is a creation of humans and we therefore incorporate our prejudices and preferences into it, religion could be argued as being a reflection of us.

I wonder, can one believe in a god without embracing any religion, whose rules and level of involvement in human affairs depends only upon the eye of the beholder and no text?

I believe one can, and while I do not subscribe to any religion, I can conceptualize god, just not in manner that most theologians would recognize.

"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H. P. Lovecraft
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Old 03-15-2017   #85
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post
I wonder, can one believe in a god without embracing any religion
I think a lot of people do.

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Old 03-15-2017   #86
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

"It seems that you are simply ignoring my statement and rephrasing Aurthur's original equivalence."
I am deeply sorry that i made this impression. Neither to ignore, nor to mishear, do i spend time typing up these ephemeral notes. If anything, i am deeply curious to get to the heart of what you are thinking.
However, rephrasing Arthur's equivalence, i was not. I was trying to point out that atheism & secularism both, though they might not themselves be prescriptive, may lead to institutions or individuals or societies that do, in fact, prescribe.

Some other points, briefly:

"...your argument that atheism requires that one behave as if there is no consequential afterlife. This is factually wrong..."

If you read carefully, and with a mind to the idea that i am not at all, as i have said, disposed towards antagonizing you, you will see that my meaning is not that atheism itself requires that behaviour, but that to be able to identify as an atheist, you must make certain claims (of disbelief in god, for instance), which in turn entails a certain outlook on certain subjects -is it odd, then, to extrapolate from that, that the atheist simply can not behave as if a god will judge him after his life, because he lacks the belief to motivate such behaviour? I do not mean to imply this predisposes him to immoral behaviour. Although, of course, from the religious perspective, a good deed done without thought of god is a dubiously good deed, indeed.


"Not believing in god is not the same as declaring affirmatively that there is no god."

Let's examine that statement. "Declaring affirmatively" that something is not, is an affirmation of a denial, no? Making it effectively equivalent to a denial. Not believing in God is also a denial-of the possibility of his existence, or else you would, by saying " God exists, or does not exist, but i do not believe in him" be at the very least not totally discarding the option of his existence.
What, then, does 'not believing' entail if not the active unwillingness to consider said option?

"Non-belief IS neutral."

If a denial (NON- belief) is neutral, then where along this axis of neutrality lies the affirmation?

"...the fact that text cannot literally compel any behavior is an obfuscation. Most religions (and certainly the Abrahamic religions) are more than just words on a page. They are also institutional, and institutions CAN (and HAVE) compelled behavior. "

Inasmuch religions are institutional, atheism and secularism too can be said to have their institutional counterparts, through which they can act, and have acted ( need i even mention Robespierre's reign of terror?)
If religions are more than just words on a page, then what is secularism? Some rarified air inhaled by elect minds, that envelops society in deep benevolence without touching it? Are there no acts, flowing from this world view? Is secularism absolved of all responsibility?

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Old 03-15-2017   #87
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post


I wonder, can one believe in a god without embracing any religion
Embracing both God and religion, from one point of view, is idolatry.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
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Old 03-15-2017   #88
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

The traditional conception of the Abrahamic God is fundamentally megalomaniac and authoritarian because he is omnipotent and ultimately responsible for what we conventionally take as evil:

Isaiah 45:7 comes to mind, where God explicitly says he is the source of both good and evil: "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things."

And Proverbs 16:4 where it is said God creates evil people: "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."

A benevolent omnipotent God would not, in any shape or form, create a world of suffering, rather he would prevent that possibility out of infinite compassion.

In Judaism, YHWH created Satan to highlight transgression of Torah's sacred laws and mete punishment, and YHWH is the source of all, which bifurcates in the lower worlds in order to generate free will for humans. Non-Gnostic Christians and most Muslims have similar views, while differing on kernel points such as the Incarnation.

To traditional Abrahamic faiths, what we perceive as evil in this world is part of the spiritual process enabling free choice (though Calvinists argue for predestination) and spiritual evolution leading up to perceiving the unity of good and evil in higher spiritual levels. Sin in Abrahamic faiths is about failing to live up to God's commandments rather than expressing "evil within the machinery of things". Good and evil are ultimately considered a "false perception of duality [at the lower realms]" in Abrahamic faiths, and this is referred to as the "Problem of Evil".

Non-Gnostic forms of the Abrahamic faiths are monstrous. What kind of God orders a man, Abraham, to kill his son, Isaac, as a test of faith? A megalomaniac and authoritarian one that is pretty much evil. In my view, to slay the Abrahamic God is the ultimate "good", since he is the causal root of all we consider evil, which is called a "false perception of duality".

Zoroastrianism, Mazdakism, Manichaeism, and Gnosticism do not have the "Problem of Evil" whilst the heinous traditional strands of Abrahamic faiths do.
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Old 03-15-2017   #89
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Edited last post with verses. I am interested in people who worship the Abrahamic God to answer the "Problem of Evil" I elaborated.

I think this is part of the reason why so much travesty has been wrought by followers of traditional Abrahamic faiths.

This article by Peter Singer goes into the Problem of Evil into more detail:
http://www.project-syndicate.org/com...d-of-suffering

Interestingly, Mazdakism and Manichaeism prohibited eating meat and pushed for vegetarianism & pacifism. They actually cared for animals and minimizing overall suffering unlike the heinous non-Gnostic Abrahamic sects.

Last edited by Mithras; 03-15-2017 at 10:44 PM..
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Old 03-15-2017   #90
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Mithras,

Some points, offered in the spirit of open-minded exchange of thoughts:

-"Isaiah 45:7 comes to mind, where God explicitly says he is the source of both good and evil: "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things."

It actually does not explicitly state 'good and evil' in the quoted text. It says light and darkness.

-"...which bifurcates in the lower worlds in order to generate free will for humans. Non-Gnostic Christians and most Muslims have similar views"

Well, no. There is no bifurcation. If god cannot be encompassed & has no limit, then the gap to be bridged by succesive emanations would at one point be from the first emanation to the unencompassable, making the gap eternal. The bifurcation would not reach its origin.


-"Non-Gnostic forms of the Abrahamic faiths are monstrous. What kind of God orders a man, Abraham, to kill his son, Isaac, as a test of faith?"

This is telling only half the story; looking only at its external form, as it were. Even if Abraham set out intent on bloody murder, the act as such , because of his faith, could never have happened as murder; his faith worked against that outcome; in transforming or purifiying the intention, Abraham's consciousness effected a transformation of the event; his faith allowed a miracle to take place. Yet it never 'took place': it was there, waiting. The outcome was implicit in the task.
Don't try this at home.

Or, seen from another angle:

If we take the Isaiah verse above in metaphorical sense ( light/dark- good/evil) we might do the same here: You can offer up your children to the idol of worldly power and possessions on the plain of Tophet, and all you will give them is a never-ending pit of ending-ness, of power that wanes and possesions that crumble; the body as prison. Or you may 'sacrifice' them to a lord beyond these things, and, paradoxically, introduce them to the concept of Mercy; the body as function of the soul.

These are quick notes, by no means comprehensive of either my views or as summary of any theological tradition.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
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