Saturday, June 23, 2007

Let Faith Continue

A popular book these days is Christopher Hitchen's "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything". A very well written book that does not merely defend atheism, it also blames religion which he defines as organized superstition as mankind's true "original sin", the root of all mass killings and genocidal hatred, sexual perversions and the perpetual injustice that prevents the majority of people from enlightenment.

He totally dismisses any redeeming value in faith. “If one must have faith in order to believe something, then the likelihood of that something having any truth or value is considerably diminished” . As I said, the book is a dazzling read, crammed with historical and literary allusions but it reminds you of the old adage about being careful whenever you get what you wish for. Because for the truly poor, what will they have left if they turn completely materialistic and focused on their short lives? Auden began his poem Musee de Beaux Arts with "About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood Its human position". What are we to do if we let go of our most dependable lifeline?

Horacio de la Costa claimed we have two jewels, our songs and our faith. Can our songs alone sustain us through all the suffering? As a betting people, we will be better off subscribing to Pascal's Wager. It may be the lazier pathway but I prefer to continue believing in faith because I am mortified to think about the hopeless consequences that atheism brings. So long as we continue to help others and do good and not commit evil in the name of our Faith, I don't see why we should stop believing.

143 comments:

r.g. lacsamana, m.d. said...

I have read excerpts of Hitchens' book, as well as chapters of another earlier book, The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. It's interesting that both authors are English and both respected in their fields (journalism and science.) Their conversion to atheism mainly has to do with the fact that discoveries in science have, at least for them, debunked the idea of a God, or a Supreme Being, or whatever others want to call it. Whatever cannot be proven by science, they posit, must not exist. Science therefore has become their God.

Whatever, they belong to that tiny minority who have dismissed completely the role of religion in our lives, which is dangerous. Even Einstein, probably the world's greatest scientist in history, believed in God, as have a number of emiment scientists, both living and dead.

As parts of the world have become more secular, there has been a revival of the absence of belief in God, particularly in Europe. This is ironic when considering that Europe is where Christianity first took roots. I understand that churches there, notably in England, France and Germany, are empty most of the time. That is not true, however, in America.

Like Dr. Bautista, I like Blaise Pascal's wager. If I believe in God but in fact there is none, I don't stand to lose anything. But if I believe in God and there is indeed one, I stand to gain everything. So, the odds are pretty clear.

Gregory said...

RG/Martin: I have read Dawkins' and Hitchens' books. From what I gathered, Einstein believed in "God". But his idea of God is not the theistic God that Jews, Christians, Muslims believed. He didn't believe there was some "being" out there who knew everything we did and intervened at his choosing.

In fact, quoting from Wikipedia:

In 1929, Einstein told Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind." (Brian 1996, p. 127)

Einstein defined his religious views in a letter he wrote in response to those who claimed that he worshipped a Judeo-Christian god: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."[37][38]


Here's another article worth reading. I read it last month:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/
magazine/
04evolution.t.html?ei=
5090&en=43cfb46824423cea&ex=
1330664400

(I had to break the URL down. Just copy paste each section to browser address)

Personally, the Pascal Wager doesn't make sense. If you believe, it should be out of a sense of conviction and not because your are hedging your bets.

And assuming there is indeed a god, will non-belief disqualify one from "salvation" - if in fact there is such a thing as salvation.

My question is: Do you think a person who does not believe in a god can still be a "good person." If you do, then, assuming that person is good and lives a good life, then can he be "saved". And if you answer yes to that - then what then happens to the role of belief in God in salvation or religion, in fact. Doesn't it make religion/belief irrelevant by making it a non-prerequisite to salvation?


Plus - -I've thought of this long and hard - - salvation from what? From our sins? That sounds very metaphysical to me.

Just because one does not believe in a god does not mean that a person will not have ethics or can't live a good life. I think that is where most people make a mistake. They conclude that without belief in a "supreme being" - one would live a life devoid of meaning, would live an unethical life, etc.

Someone said life has no meaning other than the meaning we ascribe to it.

As to the growth of secularism in Europe, well, I consider them "early adopters." Like an adoption curve. Just like there were the early adopters of Christianity, they are likely early adopters of non-belief.

I am a fan of Bill Maher (HBO. Real Time). And in one of his shows, they showed a survey. While the nos. in US are overwhelming with respect to belief in God, when the nos. are broken down, the age group 18-30 y/o shows a big number of non-believers (17-20%). You can already see the shifting demograhics. And while a tiny minority - there are a lot of "closet" non-believers out there but aren't expressing publicly their beliefs because of a likely public backlash. In fact, for politicians at least, to admit you are an atheist (non believer in a theistic god) is a kiss of death.

Oh - do check this out - TED talks:

http://www.ted.com/themes/
view/id/21

(Particularly the speech of Dawkins on atheism)


Using Matrix speak: Will you take the blue pill or the red pill? :-)

Interestingly, I read a NYT post on the Hitchens/Sharpton debate last month. The board filled up with tons of comments. Here are some interesting ones (I am putting 4-5):

************************

I can’t wait until the human race evolves beyond the pre-historic need for religion. All religions are fairy tales based on ancient writings, that REQUIRE participants to shun critical thinking.
The overwhelming majority of religious people gained their “faith” through childhood indoctrination.

Meanwhile, those of us who have used our brains and rejected these fairy tales have to live in a world where archaic religious beliefs shape our social policies. It’s painful.
I know, I know…how “intolerant” of me. What a load of hypocritical nonsense.
Religious indoctrination is filled to the brim with intolerance; for other faiths and “non-believers”. If I claimed that a giant lizard from Pluto created the world, I would get ridiculed from all sides, yet I’m supposed to “tolerate” beliefs that, to me, are just as ludicrous? Beliefs that are somehow a requirement for choosing our leadership? Let’s also not forget the polls that reveal religious folks “tolerantly” rank atheists a notch above child-molesters and overwhelmingly reject the idea that “non-believers” should ever be placed in leadership roles.
The idea that our proposed “leaders” need to pander to this nonsense is frightening to say the least.
— Posted by Thomas

********************

“To assert that there is order in the understanding (or in the laws of nature) implies that there is a cause to that order.”
Why? The more we learn about the world and the species living now and in the past the more evolution is proven to be true. There is plenty of fossil evidence of earlier species leading to those living today (and yes this includes people.)
Even more compelling is the genetic evidence showing our close kinship to other apes. If there is a creator then why did he/she/it have to evolve us into our current form.
If a creator could craft a dinosaur but wanted a man why not just make a man in the first place? Evolution shows that no “designer” is necessary.
— Posted by David Pfeifle

**********************

Once more, it’s necessary to dispel the myth that evolution is “the result of a random, accidental” process, or that this characterizes natural processes in general. Far, far from it! Natural processes are hugely constrained by laws of physics and chemistry and, in the case of cosmology, geology and biology, by historical contingencies. In particular, the formative processes of evolution, which produce the designs of organisms that are so exquisitely adapted for survival and reproduction in their particular environments, are anything but “random”. On the contrary, as any student of the subject should know, the driving force of evolutionary change is selection, natural or otherwise…by definition, as nonrandom a process as you can imagine. The variation upon which selection operates may have a random component to it, as do all natural phenomena, but the essence of evolutionary processes is the decidedly nonrandom selection of traits that promote the survival and reproduction of succeeding generations. It’s essential to counter the creationist/ID claim that the scientific alternative to supernatural creationism is merely “random accidents.” Far, far from it!!
— Posted by Ben

*************************

I would like to make an explicit correction for everyone who has referred to the evolutionary process as “totally random”. To say this implies that 1) life has no meaning and 2) that the current state of biological affairs is an accident.
In fact, the evolutionary process sometimes works in VERY SPECIFIC (what we might call ‘non-random’) ways. Take the sickle-cell mutation which, if one is a carrier, protects against malaria. In this case and many others, nature is selecting for a VERY specific genetic trait (or selecting against the lack of a sickle-cell gene however you want to look at it).
While it is the case that life occurences can be referred to as ‘random’ (e.g., someone more fit for their environment falls off a cliff or dies in a battle), the aggregate population is being affected by natural selection in a VERY specific way.
Just as it flipping a coin is ‘random’ in the sense that it is possible to land 12 ‘heads’ in a row, over the long-run, probability theory will prevail and roughly 50% of one’s coin tosses will land ‘tails-up’.
A second comment on evolution…
I think it is without merit to use the phrase ‘BELIEVE in evolution’. ‘Belief’ in the philosophical sense and in the colloquial sense are two very different things.
In the philosophical sense, we might say that our ‘belief’ is as close to 100% as is possible that 2+2=4. The use of this type of ‘belief’ should be reserved for mathematics and the sciences.
In the colloquial sense, the word ‘belief’ takes on a slightly looser meaning. ‘Belief’ in this sense suggests that we are placing some degree of trust or faith that something is the case.
The word ‘belief’ in this sense ought not to be used apropos to science. The word ‘belief’ in this colloquial sense ought to be relegated to (reserved for) religious discussion.
The onus is on the ‘believer’ in the invisible, omniscient, and omnipotent creator to provide evidence for why ‘creationism’ ought to be favored instead of ‘evolution’.
In the current state of science, there is little debate about evolution being the most plausible inference to the best explanation.
In my mind, natural selection is the ‘best explanation’ available to account for artificial selection which has been verified and repeated countless times throughout observable history (take the breeding of all the varieties of domestic dogs from wolves–from Chihuahuas to the Great Dane).
— Posted by Jake Rogers

********************

As a fellow athiest (recovering catholic), I too am disgusted with the invasion of religion (ie. christianity) into the government. What is really disturbing however, is how many write that the issue of evolution and creation is innane, and that there are more pressing issues to deal with. I believe a person’s belief system and world view are central to their means of analyzing a situation and making intelligent decisions. I have studied evolution since an undergraduate paleontology major, and have taught biology for over 12 years, and I have arrived at being an atheist through a long process of overcoming indoctrination (well meant of course) as a child. What are the chances of an athiest ever running for office? Are there any prominant members of the governement who are athiest? (I don’t know, are there?) Talk about intolerance!
— Posted by dan

**************************


“In short, your certainty over such matters [god being superfluous] seems like more like misplaced confidence bordering on hubris.”

The idea that humans are the product of a divine being, and that we are the special, chosen species on earth, suggests hubris. The non-theistic model puts us in our place … a product of natural processes, no more or less special than any other species, but with a knack for learning truths and not fabricating stories for the things we don’t know. I prefer the latter.

Gregory said...

RG - "Science therefore has become their God."

Science is not a religion. It is a process. All they are saying is that, if everything is subjected to the scientific inquiry, why don't we subject "religious belief" to such inquiry. Why exempt it?

They point to us that religion claims to be in the "realm of faith." And as such, there are certain things that cannot be explained.

But that begs the questions. That's a cop-out.

To them there is nothing sacred. That's the thing - we deem certain things "sacred" and therefore dare not shake these sacred beliefs' foundations and consider their questioning "blasphemous."

What they are saying is that when you think of the revelations of science (and this process is far from over - -we are discovering so many things as I write, and imagine what man will learn and discover in 1000 years), you will see that you do not need a "designer." Further, one will begin to see that likely, the whole idea of a designer does not make sense.

More on Pascal's Wager:

You might as well consider this:

**************************

Atheist's Wager

The Atheist's Wager is an atheistic response to Pascal's Wager. While Pascal suggested that it is better to take the chance of believing in a God that might not exist rather than to risk losing infinite happiness by disbelieving in a god that does, the Atheist's Wager suggests that:

You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in God. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent God, he may judge you on your merits coupled with your commitments, and not just on whether or not you believed in him.[5]

A god may exist who will reward disbelief or punish belief. In the absence of clear knowledge of what if anything will benefit us hereafter it is better to concentrate on improving conditions here. The conditions we live in could be, or couldn't be, generated by us. However, we are still left to affect them any way we can. The Atheist here must then exclude any probability in a mathematical possibility of an external agent affecting their condition.

************************

From Wikipedia:

Ignores benefits/losses while alive

Pascal here takes what may be called an "eternal perspective." That is, his wager is not concerned with the lifetime of the person before death. At the very least, it assumes that belief and non-belief are of equal value before death. This ignores the time, money, and effort spent upon worship required to establish belief that could be redirected to other, more beneficial pursuits. Thus, a life spent on belief when there is no god results in a loss while a life spent on non-belief when there is no god results in a gain. I.e. If there is no god, life ends at death. This means that the only gain possible is during life, and before death. If one lives as if there is a god when there is in actuality not a god, then one's life before death (the only life one has) is wasted.

Gregory said...

Interesting information from the movie "The God Who Wasn't There":

Folklorists compared HERO stories from around the world and developed the so-called “Hero patterns.”



Using Lord Raglan’s hero pattern where he compared 18 classical myths in ancient western literature, let’s see how Jesus stacks up.



Lord Raglan’s pattern has 22 points:



1. His mother is a royal virgin

2. His father is a king, and

3. Often a near relative of his mother, but

4. The circumstances of his conception are unusual, and

5. He is also reputed to be the son of a god.

6. At birth an attempt is made, often by his father, to kill him, but

7. He is spirited away, and

8. Reared by foster parents in a far country

9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but

10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future kingdom.

11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beat,

12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor, and

13. Becomes king

14. For a time he reigns uneventfully, and

15. Prescribes laws, but

16. Later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects, and

17. Is driven from the throne and city.

18. He meets with a mysterious death,

19. Often at the top of a hill.

20. His children, if any, do not succeed him.

21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless

22. He has one or more holy sepulchers.



Now, how does Jesus stack up to the hero pattern?



1. Oedipus – 22 points

2. Theseus – 20 pints

3. Jesus – 19 points

4. Romulus – 17 points

5. Hercules – 17 points

6. Perseus – 16 points

7. Zeus – 15 points

8. Jason – 15 points

9. Robin Hood – 13 points

10. Apollo – 11 points

Gregory said...

I am not a member of this group. But here is proof of the openness of the youth when it comes of faith/religion.

http://www.atheista.net/

Mind you - -these seem to be people who are making meaning and sense in their lives. So again, to say that non-belief will mean a life of materialism and devoid of meaning is not correct to say.

Gregory said...

Sorry - -can't help but add another thing:

What is an atheist:



In practice, what is an atheist?

An atheist is just someone who feels about Yahweh the way any decent Christian feels about Thor or the Golden Calf. As has been said before, we are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in - - -some of us just go one god further.

r.g. lacsamana said...

The subject of God, atheism, religion, evolution and intelligent design is as abstruse as it is endless, incapable of being solved, regardless of our beliefs. I agree we don't have to be believers to lead the "good life," which denotes a life of righteousness, charity, and all the virtues we have been taught from childhood.

Judging from books being released, there appears to be a heightened interest in God, and whether He exists or not, probably from renewed focus on evolution and intelligent design.

It's interesting to note that books written by atheists sell more, though there are probably more books defending the existence of God and rebutting the claims of evolution, exemplified, for example , by Behe's The Edge of Evolution, and Jonathan Wells' Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

I admire Gregory's learned discourse on this subject, though I stand at the opposite pole of what he believes in. He reminds me, in some ways, of Dr. Ricardo Pascual who used to be the best known atheist back home when he was teaching Philosophy at U.P.

Martin D. Bautista, M.D. said...

Gregory, materialism is the non-belief in an afterlife. While on Earth, do the best you can because when it's over, it's all over. Meaning stops when your time is up.

I think we don't have the luxury of Hitchens et al to spend so much time on an unanswerable issue. It is easier for me to believe and let my faith spur me to do good.

Gregory said...

"I admire Gregory's learned discourse on this subject, though I stand at the opposite pole of what he believes in. He reminds me, in some ways, of Dr. Ricardo Pascual who used to be the best known atheist back home when he was teaching Philosophy at U.P."

****************

Thanks RG. I must admit though that I am a recent "convert" and was religious all my life until that turning point. While I have always considered philosophy as one of my favorite subjects in college (surprisingly, even theology was one of my favorites), my fascination with science/evolution is a new found passion. As I began to understand better the whole concept of evolution, the more I began to change my view of the world.

The quest for knowledge for me continues. And if I developed some kind of knowledge on the issue, that's because of the books, blogs, comments of so many others who are far superior in knowledge than me when it comes to this matter.

Trust me - I understand where those with faith are coming from. And while I may not be totally in sync with a very militant type of a-theism, I have a very strong conviction for being on this "other side."

No worries. No war here between you/Martin and myself. But it's interesting to see how we can be so different in this aspect but share a lot of sentiments when wanting to think of solutions for the Philippines.

***************

Martin - interesting post. Glad you did so. It gave me a chance to put into writing my world view. :-)

Okay - point taken on the materialism definition. The fact that I consider that there's no life beyond this one, spurs me, on the other hand to act with a sense of urgency when in comes to my life (and how I can make a difference with respect to the lives of others).

Gregory said...

BTW, this weekend, the Wall Street Journal had a nice article on Hitchens and his book.

I'll reproduce it here because sending a link will not enable the readers to read it unless they have a subscription:

WSJ Page One article

Hitchens Book Debunking
The Deity Is Surprise Hit
By JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG
June 22, 2007; Page B1

Summer beach-reading season is just beginning, and already several books have broken out from the pack, such as Walter Isaacson's biography of Albert Einstein, and Conn and Hal Iggulden's "The Dangerous Book for Boys."

But the biggest surprise is a blazing attack on God and religion that is flying off bookshelves, even in the Bible Belt. "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," by Christopher Hitchens, wasn't expected to be a blockbuster. Its publisher, Twelve, a fledgling imprint owned by France's Lagardère SCA, initially printed a modest 40,000 copies. Today, seven weeks after the book went on sale, there are 296,000 copies in print. Demand has been so strong that booksellers and wholesalers were unable to get copies a short time after it hit stores, creating what the publishing industry calls a "dark week." One experienced publishing veteran suggests that Mr. Hitchens will likely earn more than $1 million on this book.

A spin-off is already in the works. Rival publisher Da Capo Press, which is owned by Perseus Books LLC, got in touch with Mr. Hitchens and signed him up to edit, "The Portable Atheist," a compilation of essays by such writers as Mark Twain and Charles Darwin that will be published in the fall.

"This is atheism's moment," says David Steinberger, Perseus's CEO. "Mr. Hitchens has written the category killer, and we're excited about having the next book."

Mr. Hitchens, 58 years old, is well-known in media and political circles as an erudite raconteur and essayist; his Vanity Fair columns and frequent TV appearances on political shows have raised his profile. More recently, his loud support for the Iraq war has infuriated many of his former compatriots. His unabashed affection for alcohol and tobacco has been widely chronicled -- sometimes by himself. "I smoke, sure, and I can take a drink when offered," he says. "It's impolite to decline."

Now he has turned his caustic gaze on God and organized religion. "A heavenly dictatorship would be like living in a celestial North Korea, except it would be worse because they could read your thoughts even when you were asleep," said Mr. Hitchens in an interview. "At least when you die you get out of North Korea, which is the most religious state I've ever seen."

Born in Portsmouth, England, Mr. Hitchens now lives in Washington D.C. and in April, became a U.S. citizen. His publisher describes his politics as eclectic. He has written 10 books ranging from "Why Orwell Matters" to "Thomas Jefferson: Author of America." He has also written four collections of essays; four short books, including "The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favorite Fetish" and "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice," and collaborated on four additional titles. He expounds at great length about Cypriot politics and Marxism and English literature and world history. Still, his writings are often meandering and complex, full of British indirectness.

Part of what is driving the sales of "God is Not Great" falls under the concept of know thine enemy. Conservative-minded customers have been snapping up the book because they want to be familiar with its message, says Vivien Jennings, owner of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan. "There is a very strong presence of the religious right, and they want to know what's being said and figure out how to move against it."

Some of the same forces were at work last fall when Bertelsmann AG's Alfred Knopf had a surprise hit with Sam Harris's "Letter to a Christian Nation," which questioned whether the Bible is the work of God, and Houghton Mifflin Co., a unit of Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep Group PLC, successfully published "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Today there are 500,000 hardcover copies of Mr. Dawkins's book in print, and 185,000 hardcover copies of Mr. Harris's book in print.

Mr. Hitchens makes a passionate case against organized religion as well as theocratic, fundamentalist states. He writes that "religion is not unlike racism." "Literature is a better source of ethics and a better source of reflection than our holy texts," he says. "People should read George Eliot, Dostoyevsky and Proust for moral leadership."

"I'm weary of people cramming religion at me," agrees Duane Kelly, a self-described liberal and retired teacher who lives in Independence, Mo. He says he is reading the book and finds it interesting. "Maybe others feel the same way, and the success of this book is a backlash," he says.

Booksellers say Mr. Hitchens has helped his own cause by staging colorful confrontations with religious figures and by making incendiary statements about the late Jerry Falwell. On "Anderson Cooper 360," Mr. Hitchens was asked if he thought Mr. Falwell would go to heaven. His response: "No. And I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to."

Says Barbara Meade, a co-owner of the Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.: "Part of the appeal is that he's a personality; we sold 106 books when he visited our store."

When Mr. Hitchens debated Al Sharpton at the New York Public Library recently, the event made national news after the Rev. Sharpton attacked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith. An estimated 1,000 turned out in Miami to listen to Mr. Hitchens challenge a panel that included an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist nun. "I now wish I hadn't participated," says Nathan Katz, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. "He was utterly abusive. It had the intellectual level of the Jerry Springer Show."

Mr. Hitchens says he purposely focused his tour on what he describes as "the states of the Old Confederacy," in part because he says that people in the South are more generous-spirited and less religious than generally thought. He also knew that religion was of particular interest. "Everywhere we had to turn hundreds away," he says. "I wouldn't say that I won or lost those the debates, but the audience was much more on my side than people predicted." Some of those who disagree with Mr. Hitchens say it's important to refute him publicly. "We don't accept his arguments. To say religion poisons everything is Christopher at his hyperbolic best," says Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank. Mr. Cromartie, who calls Mr. Hitchens "a friend," will moderate a debate at Georgetown University in October between him and Alister McGrath, a professor of historical theology.

Mr. Hitchens says he has received surprisingly little hate mail since his book was published. What does he think readers have learned from "God is Not Great?" "That your life is probably better led after you've outgrown the idea that the universe has a plan for you," he says. "The cosmos isn't designed with you in mind. You might as well just consult an astrological chart."

***************

No. of hardbound books in print:

God Delusion - 500,000
(Dawkins)

God is Not Great - 296,000
(Hitchens)

Letter to a Christian Nation - 185,000
(Harris)

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon - 64,000
(Dennett)

God: The Failed Hypothesis - How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist - 60,000
(Stenger)

micketymoc said...

Where it comes to afterlife "wagers", the Atheist's Wager seems the most appealing to me. It's quite simple, and does not force you to believe things you find unbelievable (Virgin Birth? Ascension of the Virgin? Transsubstantiation?) yet still holds you to a moral standard.

Simple human kindness, I think, is something that everyone regardless of religion has the potential for. This kind of kindness is the kind of thing that an ostensibly all-good God would reward. Any God who would consign me to Hell just for not following his son seems to me to be too vain a God to wholeheartedly follow.

Bob said...

Let us try applying the atheist view ..Maybe we have been praying as a nation to the wrong god for 500 years.

peedro said...

if Christianity is a drug that gives the hope that there is life after death, a life better than this one. i'll take it 60/60/24/7!

it can even probably enhance the enjoyment of life on earth like having some privileges that atheist cannot enjoy ("Christian" -community, -bible studies, -counselors, -etc)

peedro said...

just curious Gregory, what aspect or concept in evolution did you find really compelling that turned your views around?

Anonymous said...

good

Anonymous said...

....science in the lower order of intelligence, with the Lord's pardon may also be referred to as God...

Senior said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

....from an old man I find this blog/comments exhilirating...with your indulgence on grammar and spelling )just a couple of my views, for now...
....1. God in His infinite mercy is allowing us to enjoy this friendly disccusion...
....2. the sincere atheist will go to the heaven he does not believe in, being covered by the intercession of the God he does not know : " Forgive them for they know not what they do !. "
....3. once I was an "unbeliever " now trying to be "Godful "....would you know my young friends any non senile senior, around 85 jrs old, who is still an honest, sincere,practicing unbeliever?
....peace & truth ...

Gregory said...

...1. God in His infinite mercy is allowing us to enjoy this friendly disccusion...

It's Martin who posted this. And so by posting it, he made it possible to have this discussion. If he wants to stop me from participating, he can block my IP address. It is Martin who has the power here.

Unless of course you mean - - God, through Martin, posted this entry which allowed us to participate in. Sigh.

....2. the sincere atheist will go to the heaven he does not believe in, being covered by the intercession of the God he does not know : "

Assuming there is heaven, then what's the whole point of even being part of a religious group or even believing in a deity in the first place if I will be saved through good works.

Forgive them for they know not what they do !. "

Condescending and presumptuous. I'd rather be humble and say "knowing is not knowing."


....3. once I was an "unbeliever " now trying to be "Godful "....would you know my young friends any non senile senior, around 85 jrs old, who is still an honest, sincere,practicing unbeliever?

Good for you. And good for your generation. Each generation and time is different. I became an unbeliever not because of loss or anger or hatred. I became one because of conviction, logic, reason, etc. And lest I be damned for being such - -I want to say - - that I accept that life has its surprises. And so I take the good and the bad in stride. And those things that are within my control, I try to affect.

micketymoc said...

"would you know my young friends any non senile senior, around 85 jrs old, who is still an honest, sincere,practicing unbeliever?"

Yup. Bertrand Russell.

I have an uncle who's an avowed atheist. He's in his mid-50s. Doesn't show any signs of switching so far.

I'm only in my early 30s. I can't honestly say I'll be an atheist all my life, but I'll cross the bridge when I get there. ;)

Gregory said...

Hi Peedro -

Long story. It's actually not a straight forward process but something that took time. I'll try to summarize things here without going into excessive detail:

*I've had moments when I questioned God's wisdom. Generally though, I never questioned his existence. You can consider me a true believer for most of my life.


1. mid-2003 - I was happy and looking forward to study in US. A month before I left, I was praying in car as I drove. Then, something weird happened - - - out of the blue, I just thought - - - hmmmm - - -was it prayer that helped me achieve what I wanted or was it the power of positive thinking/mental focus.

After that incident, whenever I prayed, that weird incident would always come to mind.

2. Faith remained strong. In December 2003, was talking to an American friend. He's religious. But we talked about the Virgin Birth, Immaculate Conception and wondered whether these were true or just mythological stories.

3. Nothing came out of that. Faith remained strong through 2004.

4. October 2004 - Read Time Magazine article entitled The God Gene. This article affected me and made me start thinking again. I also connected my experiences in mid-2003 to what I read in the article.

http://www.time.com/time/covers/
1101041025/

I recall that often, when I am scared, or I need something, or I need help to get through something, I talk to God. When talking to God, I feel I have a connection - -and somehow I feel calm and I feel reassured. I must admit - -that I have experienced “God” in the past. But then, after reading the article - - - something struck me. And it has to do with the power of the mind. The brain is something that controls many things - -our feelings, emotions, etc. In fact, it is so powerful that athletes, etc. harness the mind to achieve peak performance. And so after reading the article - - - I developed doubts. Were my feelings/emotions/events in my life due to a divine being or were they a result of the power of the mind - -that when you pray and are in deep concentration, I was actually harnessing the power of the mind to help me cope with the challenges of life.

And so this got me thinking further - - - - -did man therefore “create” God to help him cope with life or is God really making himself (or herself or itself- -we really don’t know do we) known to us and all that’s happening is that we are perceiving him through our senses. The creation of God somehow made sense. If there was really ONE God that existed and that God made himself known to man, why are manifestations of God all different among cultures. Shouldn’t there be just one God that can be perceived by all? Then this got me thinking again - - - - -is it possible that man has different conceptions of God because God was a creation of the human mind to begin with and therefore - - -different minds can have different creations - -and hence, different Gods?

But then - - -I realize - -even our senses is controlled by the mind. And that got me scared. I know how powerful the mind is. And so - - while I didn’t resolve things then, the seeds of doubt were planted in my mind/heart.

5. December 2004 - Watched History Channel and CNN specials on Nativity. Got deeply affected. I think these were among the smoking gun reasons.

The Nativity is one of the stories that not all 4 Gospels talk about. In fact, only 2 Gospels talk about the Nativity. Luke and I believe Matthew (or was it Mark). Anyway, their accounts of the Nativity were so different because they were writing to 2 different audiences. We know that the Gospels were written years after Jesus died and by different writers. Anyway - - -Luke – was preaching Christianity to the Greeks. Matthew on the other hand was seeking to convert the Jews to Christianity. Thus, in Luke’s case: The Greeks often believed that a person is of significance only if he has some divine origin. Often, that divine origin is manifested through some kind of divine birth where a God impregnates a woman. Thus, to the Greeks, Alexander the Great had divine origins because his mother was impregnated by Zeus (or something like that). Because Alexander descended from the gods, he is of divine origin and therefore, great You will note that Alexander the great lived around the latter part of the BC’s just before the AD’s. Thus, to convince the Greeks that Jesus was a divine being and Christianity was the one true religion, Luke had to use Greek legend to convert them. In so doing, he adopted the same divine conception of Alexander to Jesus’ birth and hence - -the immaculate conception.

Matthew on the other hand had a different audience. His audience were the Jews. Thus, his account of the Nativity is totally different from Luke’s. Because Matthew wanted to convert the Jews, he had to show a clear link between Jesus and David so as to make the case that Jesus is the messiah Thus, Matthew took great pains in talking about the lineage of Mary (and Joseph) and used the whole Bethlehem account to make the connection with David.

So you have two Gospels, with 2 completely different stories, for 2 completely different audiences. Only these two had versions of the Nativity. The other Gospel writers do not even attempt to write about the Nativity.

When I watched this - - - -I think the doubts took root. I do not doubt that Jesus existed. For sure he did and I am not about to prove that. I accept that he lived. But the big question is - - is he really God.

I am not saying Luke and Matthew tricked us. I am saying that they had reasons for writing what they wrote. But if what I discussed is true - - then I think it would not be unreasonable for a reasonable man to doubt the divinity of Jesus.

And this again goes to the 1st article - - -about God and the mind. I know Jesus to be divine because I have been taught that. But assuming I grew up in let’s say, India - - - - -and I never met a missionary or went to Catholic school. I would never have thought that Jesus is God just as I think that Allah is not God, or that Vishnu is not a God, or that Zeus is not a God.

In other words - - - what we believe, what our faith is - -is shaped by the dictates of man and not through revelation that is universal. For if revelation was universal and some truth is the one and only truth and is self-evident - - -why are there different manifestations of the truth.

Again - -I do not deny that I felt God in my life in the past. But even the feeling of God - - was that really God or was it really a feeling of God that my mind made me think and feel was God because I have learned and been taught a certain concept of God?

6. Then, Feb. 2005. I watched this show on CNBC and it was about life after death. The topic was about the white light people see before dying. Some would say that the white light is the path to heaven. But medical science attempted to explain this. Long explanation but here’s the gist: A person in extreme pain will aim to blot the pain. The brain, sensing unbearable pain - - would not suddenly disengage and therefore ”trick” you. Thus, the white light is really things in your brain sort of going haywire and blotting the sensation of pain.

Then, they did experiments. People who claim to have out of the body experience in the operating room described that they saw themselves there in the operating room being operated upon. Now - -they surely described the operating room but none of the descriptions were specific enough to show that the operating room was the one where the operation was being conducted. In other words, the description was a general description of the operating room - - often a description of our own idea of the operating room as we probably see this in tv shows, etc. So they did an experiment and put a giant X is the operating room. A big red X on the floor. Now, within a course of 2 years, they operated people. Several claimed that they experienced an out of body experience and saw themselves being operated upon. None of them though ever commented on the giant red X that practically covered the whole operating room.

Again, I know - -science cannot prove everything. But this story again makes sense from a reasonable man’s point of view. The brain is so powerful but it’s power is limited by its own knowledge and experience. In the end, the show didn’t resolve things. But it left things up to the viewer to decide.


*More to follow. I'll also write the evolution part next time - but I won't go into details.

**I know this was long. But I didn't have to type 80% of it because I simply copy pasted what I had written before in an e-mail.

Gregory said...

On evolution:

Here's my macro view.

Let me first say that I think they didn't teach evolution pretty well when I was growing up. And yes, I went to good schools. :-) And I don't exactly remember now what was taught. I loved science then but not enough to make me seek a career in science. Thus, out of ignorance - what basically stuck in my mind was "we descended from the apes." Of course, that thought is simplistic and wrong.

While I was intellectual curious, I never really read books on evolution.

Now, as I began watching all these shows on PBS, Nova, Discovery HD, etc. while in States, I began to have a clearer understanding of evolution (note - - -my intellectual curiosity on evolution was sparked by my own questioning of faith that I was experiencing in 2003-2005).


So here's the macro view. Every living thing has some common genetic code. However, each specie would have a variation from another specie to account for differences. Now, man's genetic code is very close to a chimpanzee's, a gorilla's, an orangutan's, a bonobo's. The differences happen resulting from the process of evolution. Now, man and all these other apes have a common ancestor. This common ancestor has a common ancestor with another specie and so on and so forth. If we stretch this to its logical end, will see that every living thing has one common ancestor.

Now, I won't go to the Big Bang and all that stuff. I'll stop at that common ancestor first.

But at that point, if I have to think of what I know about God, man, etc. from the Catholic point of view, certain weird thoughts come to mind:

1. If God was so great, why can't he create creatures. We credit God for the wonders of nature, etc., the amazing human body, etc. and say "Boy - -how amazing the world is - -there has to be a creator when you think of the amazing things we see today." But what we see now wasn't what was there in the beginning. What was there was just oxygen, helium, hydrogen, etc. What is here now (as we know it) is the result of billions and billions of years of evolution.


2. Christians subscribe to the belief that God created man in his image and likeness. But if this is so, does this mean that he "created the dinosaurs" first (I am simplifying things here - -again, dinosaurs evolved), decided he didn't want dinosaurs to rule the world because they didn't look cute enough, and so he decided to send a giant asteroid/meteor to destroy their kind, and then allow billions of years again to pass in order to finally bring rise to man through a series of evolutionary steps?

Sometimes, people think man was present already when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. In fact, my older cousins (those in their 50's) think that man co-existed with dinosaurs (they got that from Hollywood movies).

I remember Jurassic Park. There were these biped dinosaurs that were not to big and were fast and smart. Had they not become extinct - likely - -they would be the super smart "beings" now roaming the earth.

In a sense, man was lucky.


3. Now, assuming that people will argue that creation/evolution can co-exist and that God actually created things but created them through evolution - -then we do have a very ineffective and inefficient God. Why do things in billions of years?

And then change his mind. Kill what he created with an asteroid. And then take another billion years to create man as we know it.


4. Perhaps, some people will say: "Well, that's the way God works - -in mysterious ways."

Sigh.

Anyway, we sometimes say - God is so cool - - he did this for me: (e.g., helped me in my exam, made me win the lottery, saved my plane from crashing, made my child smart, cured me of my illness, etc.)

So wow - - God actually intervenes when he wants to. But to create the world, it took him years to create it.

Just to drive home the point - - -he can jump in and out of a life when he wants to and has a reason - - but otherwise, he's just gonna be out there watching.

5. And this next one - -not anymore "evolution related." But think of this - - - -

Let's say your son/daughter won a contest. you say - praise be God for making my son/daughter win. In the meantime, someone lost. So does that mean God preferred your child to win over the others.

I think I know what's coming. I am about to hear that well, yes - -God made my child win, but as to the loser - he had a reason for that. It will make that person stronger and develop character.

But then - -here's the kicker.

We always think of these small things. But what about the holocaust, a major earthquake, etc.

Why didn't God intervene? He's willing to intervene in a contest of kids or to make a business prosper but not to save the lives of millions of Jews being murdered.

Now please, don't tell me that God had his reason. No reason, no matter how noble, can possibly justify the murder of millions of people.

The answer why God didn't intervene - well, is simple. He simply didn't exist.


6. Now - this one is Jesus-specific (and all the other theistic Gods). There are billions of galaxies out there. And there are billions of planets out there. Is it likely that there is intelligent life out there other than man. Likely there is.

If so - - did Jesus die for them too to save them from their sins?


*I also have a comment on Christ dying for our sins. It doesn't make sense. The dying really is like an offering to a god to appease him - -just like virgins are offered to appease the gods.

So had he not died, what would have happened. End of the world? Probably not.

And sure, after he died, we still sin and continue to sin. (And I will just stick to the definition of sin as defined by the Church).

So the point is - -what was the whole point of Jesus' dying. Man still sins anyway.

7. And this I got from a NG show:

Bible says Mary knew that Jesus was son of God. In fact, she conceived him without man's help. But why then after that "miraculous" event does she seem to express surprise everytime Jesus did a miracle or in fact question the things he was doing.

If you suddenly gave birth to a boy and you knew you didn't have sex to do this, and you also heard God tell you he will impregnate you - -would you know your son to be "superhuman" and out of the ordinary - - - that if he does wonders - -you might get awed but won't be surprised anymore why such happens.

Oh boy - - I hope I didn't stir major controversy with my statements. :-P

Gregory said...

Here's another thing - -the Bible as God's book.

Of course, we now know that there were more than 4 gospels. And that the 4 gospels were chosen as the "official" gospels and the others were ordered destroyed.

Are we saying now that God divinely inspired our Church leaders to destroy these other gospels, persecute their believers, so that the true gospels - -that is the 4 gospels - - -will become part of the NT?

I can hear someone say - - yes - -the 4 gospels are the true gospels - -and that it was man's fault that he destroyed the other gospels and persecuted their believers, not God's. The other gospels were not inspired by God and therefore are not his gospels.

But isn't that weird. Man claiming that God is on their side and not on the other's side.

Isn't that what were seeing now. Religions claiming God is on their side and not on the other.

Isn't it all MAN-MADE.

*Something for everyone to think about.

Okay. Enough written for today.

Gregory said...

Correction: For my comment on the dinosaurs - -I means millions here, not billions. So hundreds of millions of years ago.

Gregory said...

How timely. A whole series on Evolution is on the NYTimes.com website. It was posted today.

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/
science/

*************************

Here's one of the articles:

Science of the Soul? ‘I Think, Therefore I Am’ Is Losing Force

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/
science/26soul.html?_r=1&ref=
science&oref=slogin

*Guys, you have to be registered (free) with NYTimes.com

peedro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
peedro said...

From the little things that I know.

1. scientist simulated the primitive earth conditions but failed to produce a single cell or even the basic building blocks of organisms....A theist God probably had the know how

2. evolution of man... until now the link between the so called stages of development are not established, as it turns out, from age dating of fossils, homo sapiens and Neanderthals co-existed. ...........the common ancestor might not be common.............as a believer finishing creation in 7 days or in 4.6 billion years through natural processes is not a problem....bible states He did it in 7 days: I’m not sure but from what I recall the translation is being debated if it’s literally 7 days or not.

3. Yup! I think man is really lucky, we are His pet creation.......I'm not going to complain about that.........Gen 1:26 And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creepers creeping on the earth. ..........plainly states that man is preferred above any creature, well that is if you believe in the bible

4. a very ineffective and inefficient God. Why do things in billions of years?.......Who is in a hurry?

5. There is little possibility that the dinosaurs would be smarter had they survived the rapid climate change brought about by the asteroid impact, the numerous volcanic eruptions, or the one super volcano that scientist believe brought the dinosaurs to extinction. they have brains the size of a baseball and that’s already a large dinosaur

6.No reason, no matter how noble, can possibly justify the murder of millions of people.....Free will makes things complicated

7. Is it likely that there is intelligent life out there other than man. Likely there is.
If so - - did Jesus die for them too to save them from their sins?

Life in another planet...there’s a good chance there are

Intelligent...not really sure............Human like? (in Gods image, or else they do not qualify as beneficiaries of salvation)...

Gregory said...

Science is a continuing process of inquiry and discovery. Sure, we don't know everything now. That's why science is attempting to understand more. In a sense, it is trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle.

"In other words, men of science are humble to admit that there's so much more to know. Thus, it is open to critical thinking and discovery.

Imagine the next 2000 years and what we will know by then.

With respect to the missing links, much progress is happening in this front. The science of evo-devo is making much progress. Again, imagine what this branch of science will discover in the next 1000 years.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/
science/26devo.html?ref=science


On the image and likeness issue, please read the NYTimes article posted today entitled

Science of the Soul? ‘I Think, Therefore I Am’ Is Losing Force

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/
science/26soul.html?_r=1&ref=
science&oref=slogin


"There is little possibility that the dinosaurs would be smarter"

Man's brain was also small too when you consider man's ancestors. The brain evolved into what it is now. The dinosaurs would have evolved too. To say that dinosaurs are big is inaccurate. Dinosaurs were diverse. There was a group that was as big as man. And these were the bipeds that were smarter than the big ones. Give them time - they would have likely evolved into smarter "beings." "Man" was diverse too - -eventually - the one that won in the evolutionary battle were the homo sapiens (Over the neanderthals, etc.).


My question to you: Do you agree in the basic premise of evolution? That is - -from simple forms - -life evolved to the diversity and complexity that it is today?

I would be completely surprised if you do not.

Anyway, evolution is not a matter of belief. One does not say - - I believe the earth is round. Earth's roundness is not a matter of belief.

So my question to you:

If man had a common ancestor with the gorillas, etc. - - and you extend that further, are you saying that suddenly, when it was at the point where you had neanderthals, Homo rhodesiensis, and homo sapiens - -

God suddenly said- - - hmmmm - - I don't like these neanderthals. They look ugly. And also these rhodesiensis. They stink. So I'll just go with the homo sapiens. They aren't too smart and they seem primitive - -but hey - -I like them - - -they are like me. Hopefully, in time, they will improve and become smart.

Note - -from homo erectus- - we evolved to homo sapiens. Part of that evolution involved cranial expansion. So even our brains evolved and continue to evolve.

**************************
*Anyway, I recommend those seeking to understand man and its connection with the whole living world to read more about evolution and human evolution. It will be good for one's scientific education and can help develop critical thinking.

**********************

No reason, no matter how noble, can possibly justify the murder of millions of people.....Free will makes things complicated


*So why does god intervene in other instances even though free will is being practiced. Remember the saying: Man proposes but god disposes. And just when his intervention was badly needed - - he missed out. Man.

Remember too the saying: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." God should be held accountable on that too. Considering that he is omnipotent, all powerful, etc. - - he simply did nothing.


Anyway - my point is what Hitchens wanted to achieve through his book - - to make us realize:

"That your life is probably better led after you've outgrown the idea that the universe has a plan for you," he says. "The cosmos isn't designed with you in mind. You might as well just consult an astrological chart."

Gregory said...

I'll save everyone the trouble.

Science of the Soul? ‘I Think, Therefore I Am’ Is Losing Force


In 1950, in a letter to bishops, Pope Pius XII took up the issue of evolution. The Roman Catholic Church does not necessarily object to the study of evolution as far as it relates to physical traits, he wrote in the encyclical, Humani Generis.” But he added, “Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”

Pope John Paul II made much the same point in 1996, in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, an advisory group to the Vatican. Although he noted that in the intervening years evolution had become “more than a hypothesis,” he added that considering the mind as emerging merely from physical phenomena was “incompatible with the truth about man.”

But as evolutionary biologists and cognitive neuroscientists peer ever deeper into the brain, they are discovering more and more genes, brain structures and other physical correlates to feelings like empathy, disgust and joy. That is, they are discovering physical bases for the feelings from which moral sense emerges — not just in people but in other animals as well.

The result is perhaps the strongest challenge yet to the worldview summed up by Descartes, the 17th-century philosopher who divided the creatures of the world between humanity and everything else. As biologists turn up evidence that animals can exhibit emotions and patterns of cognition once thought of as strictly human, Descartes’s dictum, “I think, therefore I am,” loses its force.

For many scientists, the evidence that moral reasoning is a result of physical traits that evolve along with everything else is just more evidence against the existence of the soul, or of a God to imbue humans with souls. For many believers, particularly in the United States, the findings show the error, even wickedness, of viewing the world in strictly material terms. And they provide for theologians a growing impetus to reconcile the existence of the soul with the growing evidence that humans are not, physically or even mentally, in a class by themselves.

The idea that human minds are the product of evolution is “unassailable fact,” the journal Nature said this month in an editorial on new findings on the physical basis of moral thought. A headline on the editorial drove the point home: “With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.”

Or as V. S. Ramachandran, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, put it in an interview, there may be soul in the sense of “the universal spirit of the cosmos,” but the soul as it is usually spoken of, “an immaterial spirit that occupies individual brains and that only evolved in humans — all that is complete nonsense.” Belief in that kind of soul “is basically superstition,” he said.

For people like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, talk of the soul is of a piece with the rest of the palaver of religious faith, which he has likened to a disease. And among evolutionary psychologists, religious faith is nothing but an evolutionary artifact, a predilection that evolved because shared belief increased group solidarity and other traits that contribute to survival and reproduction.

Nevertheless, the idea of a divinely inspired soul will not be put aside. To cite just one example, when 10 Republican presidential candidates were asked at a debate last month if there was anyone among them who did not believe in evolution, 3 raised their hands. One of them, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, explained later in an op-ed article in this newspaper that he did not reject all evolutionary theory. But he added, “Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.”

That is the nub of the issue, according to Nancey Murphy, a philosopher at Fuller Theological Seminary who has written widely on science, religion and the soul. Challenges to the uniqueness of humanity in creation are just as alarming as the Copernican assertion that Earth is not the center of the universe, she writes in her book “Bodies and Souls or Spirited Bodies?” (Cambridge, 2006). Just as Copernicus knocked Earth off its celestial pedestal, she said, the new findings on cognition have displaced people from their “strategic location” in creation.

Another theologian who has written widely on the issue, John F. Haught of Georgetown University, said in an interview that “for many Americans the only way to preserve the discontinuity that’s implied in the notion of a soul, a distinct soul, is to deny evolution,” which he said was “unfortunate.”

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth.

For Dr. Murphy and Dr. Haught, though, people make a mistake when they assume that people can be “ensouled” only if other creatures are soulless.

“Evolutionary biology shows the transition from animal to human to be too gradual to make sense of the idea that we humans have souls while animals do not,” wrote Dr. Murphy, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. “All the human capacities once attributed to the mind or soul are now being fruitfully studied as brain processes — or, more accurately, I should say, processes involving the brain, the rest of the nervous system and other bodily systems, all interacting with the socio-cultural world.”

Therefore, she writes, it is “faulty” reasoning to want to distinguish people from the rest of creation. She and Dr. Haught cite the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher and theologian who, Dr. Haught said, “spoke of a vegetative and animal soul along with the human soul.”

Dr. Haught, who testified for the American Civil Liberties Union when it successfully challenged the teaching of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, in the science classrooms of Dover, Pa., said, “The way I look at it, instead of eliminating the notion of a human soul in order to make us humans fit seamlessly into the rest of nature, it’s wiser to recognize that there is something analogous to soul in all living beings.”

Does this mean, say, that Australopithecus afarensis, the proto-human famously exemplified by the fossil skeleton known as Lucy, had a soul? He paused and then said: “I think so, yes. I think all of our hominid ancestors were ensouled in some way, but that does not rule out the possibility that as evolution continues, the shape of the soul can vary just as it does from individual to individual.”

Will this idea catch on? “It’s not something you hear in the suburban pulpit,” said Dr. Haught, a Roman Catholic whose book “God After Darwin” (Westview Press, 2000) is being reissued this year. “This is out of vogue in the modern world because the philosopher Descartes made such a distinction between mind and matter. He placed the whole animal world on the side of matter, which is essentially mindless.”

Dr. Haught said it could be difficult to discuss the soul and evolution because it was one of many issues in which philosophical thinking was not keeping up with fast-moving science. “The theology itself is still in process,” he said.

For scientists who are people of faith, like Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, asking about the science of the soul is pointless, in a way, because it is not a subject science can address. “It is not physical and investigateable in the world of science,” he said.

“Everything we know about the biological sciences says that life is a phenomenon of physics and chemistry, and therefore the notion of some sort of spirit to animate it and give the flesh a life really doesn’t fit with modern science,” said Dr. Miller, a Roman Catholic whose book, “Finding Darwin’s God” (Harper, 1999) explains his reconciliation of the theory of evolution with religious faith. “However, if you regard the soul as something else, as you might, say, the spiritual reflection of your individuality as a human being, then the theology of the soul it seems to me is on firm ground.”

Dr. Miller, who also testified in the Dover case, said he spoke often at college campuses and elsewhere and was regularly asked, “What do you say as a scientist about the soul?” His answer, he said, is always the same: “As a scientist, I have nothing to say about the soul. It’s not a scientific idea.”

Gregory said...

Important comment:

As you can see, religion and church teachings are also subject to evolution.

There interesting thing is - -science is dictating the agenda.

Because religion cannot debunk scientific finding, it tweaks its messages to make it compatible with science.

If you will note from the article - some theologians now are beginning to tweak their theology - -saying now that all living organisms have a soul.

I'll make a bet that in future (maybe not in our lifetime) - -this whole notion of man over animals because he has a soul will be refined again by the Church and they will say that "through revelation" - - -all living things have a soul. This whole thing on revelation is really just a safety net for the Church (for example) to change their teachings.

Oh well . . . proof that even religion evolves in order to survive.

If the Church didn't evolve and eventually accept Galileo's and Copernicus' findings, then it wouldn't survive.

So I am sure, it's teachings now - of which it is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN about- - will change and evolve again. They have to - -so that they don't lose relevance.

Gregory said...

Selfless Chimps Shed Light on Evolution of Altruism

http://www.livescience.com/animals
/070625_chimp_altruism.html

Also, if chimps feel there is little chance they can get food for
themselves, "maybe altruistic tendencies collapse," Warneken added.

"For humans and chimps, selfish and altruistic motives are in
competition with each other, and it could be that with chimps, selfish
motives have to be pushed far off to the side to make room for
altruism. So what distinguishes humans and chimps is not whether or
not chimps have altruism but how fragile altruism might be."

[max] richard dawkins said in one of his speeches, morality is
darwinian. these experiements appears to validate his sentiment .. and
disputes the sentiments of theists citing their ancient books as the
sole source of morality ..


********************

I recommend to the readers - -if you have access - -please watch the following PBS and Discovery TV shows (very related to the article above):

a.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/
bonobos/

b.

http://www.netflix.com/Movie/
Why_Dogs_Smile_and_Chimpanzees_Cry/
27911046


It will make you rethink about man and its relationship to the animal kingdom. And so this whole notion of man unique from animals because it has a soul - -slowly loses appeal. I really got touched by these documentaries.


*******

THAT'S WHAT I MEAN. THERE'S SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE OUT THERE. IT IS GOOD TO HAVE OPEN MINDS AND TO ACCEPT THAT WE KNOW SO LITTLE YET. SCIENCE IS HELPING US KNOW SO MUCH MORE. RATHER THAN CLOSE OUR MINDS, LET'S NOT FEAR WHAT SCIENCE DISCOVERS. LET US BE CHAMPIONS OF CRITICAL THINKING. ALWAYS CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO.

KNOW THAT NOTHING IS SACRED BECAUSE SOMEONE SAID SO.

Anonymous said...

*Selfless Chimps Shed Light on Evolution of Altruism


Attribution purposes: This was posted by Romeo Macapobre "maxm1973"

Prudence said...

I like what Gregory wrote in here. Especially this one:

"But isn't that weird. Man claiming that God is on their side and not on the other's side.

Isn't that what were seeing now. Religions claiming God is on their side and not on the other. "

I think this has always been the cause of the friction among the world's religions. One group would always claim God is on their side while the other one would be utterly convinced that what they are doing have the blessings of their God.

I do not say I'm not a full-pledged Atheist. But I value reason and logic. I will not close my mind to whatever is discovered as day passes. Religion only insinuates that we close our minds because we must have faith. This should not be our attitude. We should always remain open to what is yet discoverable. And isn't the beauty of day to day life enough to make you appreciate the beauty of the world as it exists today, without having to attribute it to a god?

We do not need religion to be good. Follow rational thinking and you'll be morally good.

Gregory said...

Correction on the dinosaur comment:

Well - -perhaps there would have been a specie of dinosaurs that would have become smart. Or perhaps there might not be one.

Still, they would have ruled the earth had they not become extinct - -and man - -likely - -would never have come into existence.

Fortunately for us - - - - God decided he wanted man over the dinosaurs. That's why he decided to kill what he originally created.

Gregory said...

We do not need religion to be good. Follow rational thinking and you'll be morally good.

************

Great point.

There are certain things in the Bible that we consider wrong or horrible. We see some things in the OT (most especially) and NT that simply would not be tolerated today.

This means that the Bible is not the sole source of morality. The fact that we can decide which parts of the Bible are okay means that we have a "source of morality" outside the Bible.

Of course, Catholicism would agree and say - - -Bible and Revelation are the two sources of morality.

But when you think about it - - revelation is nothing more than reason and critical thinking.

The danger though of claiming that something comes from God (revealed by God) is that the thoughts take the character of sanctity and divinity. And for those who believe such was the case will likely hold steadfast to it because "God said so."

Gregory said...

1. scientist simulated the primitive earth conditions but failed to produce a single cell or even the basic building blocks of organisms....A theist God probably had the know how

Here's my reply (using someone else's reply) to that:

JONATHAN LUNINE: It's very difficult to use the Earth as a laboratory for understanding how life began. Life eats all of the organic molecules that are present on the Earth today. If we go to the laboratory and try to simulate how life began, we have limits on time and space. A laboratory experiment might be this big; a laboratory investigator might work for two or four or 10 years perhaps, no more than that. We really need a place where organic evolution is happening on a planetary scale, over billions of years, but is not being ruined by the presence of life.

**********************


Here's a related article:

http://news.com.com/
2100-1006-995004.html

***************************

BTW - -I was watching PBS Nova about Saturn 3 months ago.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/
nova/titan/

And there was a discussion in that show regarding the origin of life.
Again, we have only begun. We will learn so much more as time goes by.

Geez - - look what the quest for knowledge has done. Sorry for exposing my "nerdy" site. Again - -critical thinking. That's the way we should think.

**************************

Here's an excerpt from the PBS Nova show I watched. I got it from the transcript on the site:

CHARLES ELACHI (Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory): We saw this fuzzy ball, and the immediate reaction is, "What's below those clouds?" You know, "What are these clouds made of? What is hidden behind that layer?"

NARRATOR: Whatever was hidden, it had to be a solid body, or else its atmosphere would have long ago escaped into space.

As Voyager confirmed, the atmosphere was nitrogen-rich and included organic molecules, perhaps resembling the atmosphere of the early Earth. Could Titan play a unique role in helping us understand the origin of life on Earth?

*********************

In 1980, Voyager confirmed that Titan is one of only four bodies in the solar system that are solid and have a substantial atmosphere, the conditions that gave rise to life on Earth. Since then, what's beneath Titan's orange veil has captivated scientists' imaginations.

CAROLYN PORCO: Whenever we humans think that we might be approaching something that is vaguely similar to Earth, we get very excited about it. The prospect of something familiar, but yet so distant, and so strange is, is a very exciting combination.

NARRATOR: Billions of years ago on Earth, it's thought that simple molecules may have spontaneously combined to form more complex chemicals that became the building blocks of life. But Earth today is teeming with life; it has taken over the entire planet. This makes Earth problematic for studying the leap from chemistry to life.

JONATHAN LUNINE: It's very difficult to use the Earth as a laboratory for understanding how life began. Life eats all of the organic molecules that are present on the Earth today. If we go to the laboratory and try to simulate how life began, we have limits on time and space. A laboratory experiment might be this big; a laboratory investigator might work for two or four or 10 years perhaps, no more than that. We really need a place where organic evolution is happening on a planetary scale, over billions of years, but is not being ruined by the presence of life.

NARRATOR: For years, scientists have been looking for a place that has a similar primordial chemistry to early Earth. Could Titan be that place? Based on data from the Voyager mission, scientists know the atmosphere of Titan contains nitrogen and methane, made of carbon and hydrogen.

JOHN ZARNECKI: It's dominated by nitrogen, but it has methane and a whole range of hydrocarbon gases, gases made of carbon and hydrogen.

NARRATOR: Scientists also know of one other ingredient that's crucial for making the leap from chemistry to life.

JONATHAN LUNINE: If we were to apply what is the essential ingredient of all life, liquid water, then we may well make some amino acids, which are the building blocks of life.

NARRATOR: But how could liquid water exist on Titan, with a surface that's nearly 300 degrees below zero?

Control of Huygens is based at the European Space Agency command center in Darmstadt, Germany. Finally, the team is about to find out what lies hidden beneath the orange veil.

On January 14, 2005, 150 miles above Titan, Huygens slams into Titan's atmosphere. The time has come to witness Huygens' historic descent to Titan's surface.

JOHN ZARNECKI: The emotion in that control room, I mean, it was absolutely tangible.

NARRATOR: But the scientists will have to be patient. It's still a long wait before any data is received back at Mission Control.

peedro said...

Yes i believe that evolution did happen. I say "I believe" because it is still debatable, it is as inaccurate as saying the world is round or oblate spheroid even if you are looking at it in space. Yes there are solid evidences that evolution did happen, you said it yourself it is a continuing research meaning not absolute otherwise they stop the research and do other stuff worth proving.

Sorry if I gave the idea that all dinosaurs are big. again as a believer of the bible, it is clear there that Man was Gods favorite and choosing him over dinosaurs is no surprise.

Ok, assuming you are god and created everything from molding clay, you are god so no time limit to create anything you want. you decided to create creatures, you select a group that you like most, from the group that you like most you have a favorite creation and re-mold it to your liking, making it your own image and put any extra-special things you like..........as a believer, i reconcile evolution and creation like this.

On His being selective of when/where to intervene...you wouldn't take "His mysterious ways" for an answer but to a believer its enough.

Miller was right about the Soul/Spirit. it is not in the realm of Science. No analytical method in chemistry can prove its existence..I have no trouble sleeping on this


I agree with the comments that you do not need religion to be moral. AGAIN as a follower of Jesus Christ doing moral acts and contributing to the betterment of mankind does not qualify you saved or given a place in heaven as people put it. you got to have FAITH

peedro said...

There is no guarantee, even if it was possible for scientist to simulate everything even time and space, to get results that they wanted.

Even if scientist produce amino acids with these experiments, its still a lot complicated because you need to combine it with other building blocks. amino acid only accounts for proteins, you also need fat building blocks, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. even if you are able to do this putting them together and jump starting life is another problem

Then, even if this things are discovered, a believer can always say. "Thats how probably God did it"

Even the famous big bang theory has its has its "Superstitious" assumption. where do you think that very dense energy came form?

Gregory said...

"I agree with the comments that you do not need religion to be moral. AGAIN as a follower of Jesus Christ doing moral acts and contributing to the betterment of mankind does not qualify you saved or given a place in heaven as people put it. you got to have FAITH"

*******************************

Your statement above proves Hitchen's point that religion poisons everything:

*So assuming there was such a thing as salvation, a person who lived a good moral life will not be saved if he didn't believe in Jesus Christ. Wow - -god sure works in mysterious ways.

**So what about all those people born before Jesus christ - - all of them damned?

***Christianity was a fledgling religion for hundreds of years. So what happens to all those people outside the influence of Christianity during that time. So all the Chinese are damned. All the Native tribes in the Americans are damned?

****What about unbaptized babied who die before their baptism - -all of them damned.

*****What about baptized kids who don't know much yet about the world and somehow still have not made a conscious decision to believe in Jesus. All of them damned.

****So out of the 6 billion people today, are you saying that close to 5/6 of that population are damned?


*****How would you feel if a Muslim told you that because you don't believe in the Koran and in Allah, you will go to hell.


******Remember the saying - the means does not justify the ends. Well, when the Spaniards colonized South America and killed many natives in the process of converting them to Christianity, are so saying that it ended well anyway because now, those people will not suffer eternal damnation? If so, how would you feel if someone today declared holy war on you in order to convert you.

*******In your case, you're fortunate because you learned about Jesus and believe in him and therefore has that main feature which is your ticket to heaven. Let's say you were instead born in the jungles of Borneo in 1897, and no missionary reached that area and arrived only in 1920. However, because life expectancy then was low, you died of typhoid fever in 1919. Your brother though, born in 1900, was converted in 1921. Your mother too. Your dad, unfortunately did not want to be converted and decided to remain a sun worshipper. Who among you 4 are saved and therefore will see each other in heaven, and who among you are damned and therefore will be together in hell. Assuming your answer is what I think your answer will be - - doesn't god work in mysterious ways by telling people not to split families while on earth but does exactly that to this family in perpetuity.


Honestly, I don't blame god. Because it is man to blame. Man created everything - -including the idea of god.

Gregory said...

Oops. I meant the end does not justify the means.

Gregory said...

you select a group that you like most, from the group that you like most you have a favorite creation and re-mold it to your liking, making it your own image and put any extra-special things you like

***************************

Why would god create intellectually-challenged people. or deformed babies. I am sure you subscribe to the belief that God created all men - -past,present,future.

The neanderthals - who are like the present humans but are not homo sapiens like us - - if at that time, a homo sapien ate a neanderthal, would he be committing canibalism. Is killing a neanderthal justified?


So okay. Religon today has a concept of what God is and that man was created in his image and likeness. What if in a billion years, the man today looks so different from what he is now. For example, those living in the seas suddenly develop fins. Or man has all these other extra powers - including the power to fly and to walk on water. Those living in high altitudes suddenly have additional breathing structures in their lungs. Did you know that scientists are checking whether the appearance of a 6th finger, something which we consider abnormal, is actually a manifestation of biological evolution in progress. You might say - -hey - -but that's still man. But that's the point. Man is a never finished being. It is a work in progress. If so, why did you say that man's ancestors are not man when really, we are connected to and linked to that pre-man specie.

Religion was so opposed to evolution before. Then, when they had no way to disprove it, they had to adopt. Now, religion claims that sure - -God chose to create the world in billions of years and decided to put man in it only recently. I am sure you've heard this: If the entire history of the universe was represented in terms of a clock with 24 hours, man appeared only during the last 2 seconds.

Isn't it really strange. Here you have this very personal God who can intervene in human history - - like make the red sea part, or help oust Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies, or help your son become a dean's lister, or made your business earn a million pesos today - - - - but this same god is unable to intervene and stop the slaughter of jews when it was happening or out of a whim, decided to put man only recently even if man, to begin with, was the creature in his image and likeness. Before that, he wanted to put the dinosaurs first.

An answer that well - - -God works in mysterious ways or that I have to accept things in faith or that we cannot explain everything - - - manifests the absence of critical thinking.

If man was told more than a hundred years ago that the beauty of the world is to be savored and accepted as part of the mysteries that God created and that trying to figure out why each bird is different from another or why there are differences in men simply destroys that admiration, then where would we be now in our understanding of man. Well - -no where.

Again, NOTHING IS SACRED. All things are to be questioned. Because as I learned in philosophy, sometimes, the question is more important than the answer.

Gregory said...

Then, even if this things are discovered, a believer can always say. "Thats how probably God did it"

************************

If so, when that time comes, then doesn't now man become a god too. :-) Suddenly, that super mystery - -how life began - - -has been solved by man.

That is not to say that man will suddenly live happy ever after.

Anyway - point is - -as man chips away at the mysteries of life - - the ultimate mystery - that is god - - - begins to lose its awe inspiring qualities.

All of these wonders we are discovering now have been made possible through science, literature, etc. Religion - which use to have a monopoly of all knowledge - including science, arts, literature, music - - - is suddenly relegated to the sphere of morality. And even in that sphere, science is showing that assumptions about "the soul" are possibly on shaky ground. And on the question of morality - - religion has no monopoly because we have philosophy, ethics, and literature as ways to enlightenment.

Gregory said...

I'll throw in another thought:

**************************

If God is all powerful, why doesn't he just magically make us all believe in him and in his son jesus.

Of course, the answer is - -because even if he did, that would be controlling us. God respects us that he gave us free will to decide.

In the meantime - -in your case at least - -you say that if I exercise my free will and not believe in Jesus - - I will not be saved.

Isn't that blackmail?


It is like saying:

"Okay son - - daddy loves you so much. He wants you to become a doctor when you grow up. However, you're a smart kid. If you decide to take law instead to become a lawyer, that's perfectly fine with me. I will still love you and accept your decision.

However, don't expect to get any inheritance from me and mommy, okay. All that is going to your big brother who has decided to heed my advice and become a doctor."

********************

Anyway - I won't stretch that analogy too far. Someone might say:

For non-believers, sure, you have your free will and you can do what you want. But that does not change the fact that you are still the son of your father and that he loves you.

:-)

Anyway, to those on the other hand who believe that it is good works that matters, what now is the overriding reason that one should join a religion or even believe in a deity. A lot of people admit that one does not need to believe in a deity to become a good person.

Now - -I am not saying that religions has only negative effects. Surely, it has made people do good too and has made them feel good in many ways. But the point is - -if one can achieve the same things without resorting to religion or belief in God, then what does that make religion and belief in god. Certainly, not a pre-requisite then.

Gregory said...

Might as well use the same analogy:

To those who say that non-belief does not cause damnation as good works can bring about salvation, here's something to think about -

Using the father, doctor, lawyer, analogy:


Father wants us to become doctor. However, it's fine with him if we don't follow his advice and become a lawyer instead. Being a lawyer though is good enough and sufficient enough for the father. In fact, even if one becomes a lawyer, the father will still give you your share in the inheritance. And I will, in the end, be as blessed as my brother who became a doctor.

If that is the case, what is now the compelling reason that I should become a doctor if becoming a lawyer will work too in the end.

Bringing things back to the topic - -what is now the compelling reason that I should be:

1. A Catholic/Christian, if I can be "saved" by being something else.

2. A believer in a deity if I can be "saved" simply by performing good works.

Now - -again - we are not debating here on the potential benefits of being part of a religion such as camaraderie, spiritual guidance, etc. Instead, if belief is not a pre-requisuite to salvation but good works is, then why even believe in the first place (of course, this argument is purely utilitarian. Unbelief goes beyond utilitarianism and often based on analysis, observation, and reason).

The only way I can see that relgion makes itself indispensable is if it makes belief a pre-requisite to salvation. However, I hope through my earlier posts, I was able to show the absurdity of that thinking. In fact, I am sure discerning people of faith will reject the notion that faith (e.g., belief in jesus) is a pre-requisite to salvation.

So I ask discerning people of faith - - -beyond benefits (as these benefits can be achieved through other secular sources and organizations), what is the compelling reason that I should believe when even non-believers will be saved if they do good deeds (for argument's sake, I am using the paradigm of salvation here although again, even that concept doesn't make sense to me. Salvation from what?)

peedro said...

I admit I do not have answers to all of those questions. But I do have comments to some.

On non-Christians, it is a continuing question for me as well. maybe some other people have an answer to this.

On why there are birth defects and intellectually challenged...I think you know the believers answer to that.

On the Spaniards forcing Christianity upon us...Faith is a personal relationship.

On the Neanderthal and Modern Man, I don't know how close their genetic make up is to judge cannibalism. If your scenario did happen it could have been justified by lack of food...this loops back to the non-Christian question.

On Homo Sapiens evolving to Homo Sapiens V.2 . Even genetics don't know that for sure. If it happens, it doesn't matter because of the "SOUL" factor as defined by Christianity.

I don't know for other religions but Catholics are not against evolution but rather the idea of "random selection"

He did create other creatures first and Man last

Does believing that the universe came from the explosion of a primordial, minute superheated energy manifest the absence of critical thinking?

I will become an Atheist the time they explain where that Primordial source of all things came from.

The recognition of a father confirms FAITH. Choosing between law and medicine is different from choosing between being a drug addict and finishing college...Hey, He is a good father with unlimited knowledge and wisdom...should follow his advise!

Religion is certainly not a pre-requisite if your goal is just to do moral things.
###################################
The only way I can see that relgion makes itself indispensable is if it makes belief a pre-requisite to salvation. However, I hope through my earlier posts, I was able to show the absurdity of that thinking. In fact, I am sure discerning people of faith will reject the notion that faith (e.g., belief in jesus) is a pre-requisite to salvation.
###################################

In the modern times yes, faith is a requirement...goes back to the pre-Christian era question.

I'm pretty sure you know what we mean when we say salvation. One thing we all need to do especially for believers, I'm sure Gregory will agree, we should study the basic concepts of our faith (religion, sect)..."faith is a requirement"...at least in this times.

peedro said...

A catholics view, don't know if this is official.

http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0403sbs.asp

peedro said...

http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0512fea3.asp

Gregory said...

On the idea that evolution is purely random or accidental, this is one big misconception about evolution.

For the record, evolution is not “utterly random”. PBS.org puts it best: “Evolution is not a random process. The genetic variation on which natural selection acts may occur randomly, but natural selection itself is not random at all. The survival and reproductive success of an individual is directly related to the ways its inherited traits function in the context of its local environment. Whether or not an individual survives and reproduces depends on whether it has genes that produce traits that are well adapted to its environment.”

*********************

From Peedro:

"Religion is certainly not a pre-requisite if your goal is just to do moral things. In the modern times yes, faith is a requirement (for salvation)."

An announcement to around 5/6 of the world's population: Bad news folks. We're all going to hell.

To subscribers of the above view - reason will make you see the absurdity of such view.

*********************

From peedro:

"The recognition of a father confirms FAITH."

I don't understand what you mean here. The father analogy was simply to use your paradigm. I am not admitting that there is such a father-god. And precisely, when I chose the doctor/lawyer analogy, that was to point out that one can still lead a good worthy life without being a Christian. The doctor could represent the Christian, and the lawyer could represent a humanist, ethical atheist.

**********************

From peedro:

"On the Spaniards forcing Christianity upon us...Faith is a personal relationship."


I am not trying to change history. What I am saying is that if God intervenes in history, he probably approved of the horrendous acts done in the past in the name of Christianity. His non-intervention in the slaughter of others believing in other religions is tantamount to an approval. Call it a necessary evil towards paving the way to a civilized, Christian society in South America.

*******************
From peedro:

"I will become an Atheist the time they explain where that Primordial source of all things came from."

Sure. The paradigm here is the ultimate cause. But that's assuming all things have causes. We really don't know for sure. The point is - - -because we really don't know - -is it now feasible to make a jump in logic and conclude there is this human-like, all-knowing, omnipotent creature in the sky that made all these happen? Science is not making any conclusions on this. The verdict is out with respect to the origin of the universe. But what's great with science is that they posit some hypothesis while acknowledging that lots of finding/searching still has to be made. In the meantime, religion has already made a conclusion. And that conclusion is - - - all this was due to this human-like entity in the heavens. Who now is jumping to conclusions?

**********************

I guess that's it for me for now. But this was a good exercise for me - mentally speaking. :-)

Gregory said...

From Peedro:

I admit I do not have answers to all of those questions.

***********

That's fine. Based on your pronouncements though, please clarify if we're on the same page here:


a. Is faith a prerequisite to salvation?

b. What is your concept of salvation?

c. I do not profess faith in Jesus. You say faith is a prerequisite. Without having to be absolutely sure, are you saying that based on your beliefs, that I will not be saved?

All I ask are your clarifications to these questions.

Thank you.

Gregory said...

From Peedro's links:

"Objective redemption is what Jesus Christ has accomplished once for all in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension: the redemption of the whole universe."

Redemption from what? From our sinfulness? That through is DRA, that he was able to appease the angry Father? Sounds mythological to me.

******************

"Yet the benefits of that redemption have to be applied unceasingly to Christ’s members throughout their lives. This is subjective redemption. If the benefits of Christ’s redemption are not applied to individuals, they have no share in his objective redemption."

My, my. There's really gonna be war with Islam. :-)

***************************

"According to John Paul II, in order to properly understand the Church’s teaching about its role in Christ’s scheme of salvation, two truths must be held together: "the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all humanity" and "the necessity of the Church for salvation"

Before even reading this, many of you, by just using your intellect and reason and good judgment that one can do good deeds and be saved even without being part of the Church. Well, the Church seems to disagree. In a gesture that is self-serving, they have ordained themselves as indispensable.

******************************

"The key elements of revelation that together undergird extra ecclesiam, nulla salus are these: (1) Jesus Christ is the universal Savior. (2) He has constituted his Church as his mystical body on earth through which he dispenses salvation to the world. (3) He always works through it—though in countless instances outside its visible boundaries."

Wow. Great. Here's the reasoning that helps reconcile their inconsistencies. Even if we have non-believers, they can be saved because - -even though they are not part of the church, the church's activities goes beyond the boundaries of the church. In other words - -and I am being sarcastic here - - because these folks pray for the non-believers, for example, that activity can and will help bring about the non-believers' salvation.

**********************

"Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their consciences—those too may achieve eternal salvation"

Using now your reasoning powers, how then can the Church be still indispensable when, from a practical standpoint, one does not need the Church/sacraments, etc. to achieve salvation.

*************************

"On the other hand, the Church has long made it clear that if a person rejects the Church with full knowledge and consent, he puts his soul in danger:

They cannot be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or remain in it (cf. LG 14)."

My friends - -if this isn't autocracy and blackmail, I don't know what is. In other words, the atheist who was an atheist because he never heard of Christ is better off than an atheist who through his own search for truth, decided that the Church and belief in christ are not necessary. What then does the church say about all the good deeds an atheist does - - it says: "Useless."

*********************

But here's what another theologian says:

"Those who do not know the Church, even those who fight against it, can receive these gifts if they honestly seek God and his truth. But, Adam says, "though it be not the Catholic Church itself that hands them the bread of truth and grace, yet it is Catholic bread that they eat." And when they eat of it, "without knowing it or willing it" they are "incorporated in the supernatural substance of the Church."


This explanation does through metaphysical means what they can't do in practical terms. Well, I guess some folks have to justify their existence.

peedro said...

Ok, "random selection" was not appropriate.

My point was evolution happened with His guidance.

Ok, but just to tweak your analogy, the father there should have God qualifications


I guess I'll have to make this one my last as well. ang haba na nito.

http://www.catholic.com/library/adam_eve_and_evolution.asp

########################################


a. Is faith a prerequisite to salvation? Yes

b. What is your concept of salvation? that if I believe in Him and follow his work. I will have a place with him when I die

c. I do not profess faith in Jesus. You say faith is a prerequisite. Without having to be absolutely sure, are you saying that based on your beliefs, that I will not be saved? everybody is given a chance

peedro said...

a. Is faith a prerequisite to salvation?

Yes, but I should qualify my answer. you can refer to the links.

Gregory said...

Okay. Peace friend.

Wow - -wasn't that a long, long discussion.

On my part - -I enjoyed really the whole intellectual part of it.

Well, I am sure some folks are glad that this issue - -unresolvable for now - - - is coming to a close. :-)

pian said...

TO GREGORY
I cannot answer all your questions but here’s my take:
I agree the brain is very powerful but it has its limits.
You said about the power of positive thinking that things go your way when you pray. But that’s it, prayer was taught by God, so good things that went your way thru prayer may not be miracles, but still it was taught by God.
About evolution, the beauty of it was creation was organized so man was able to understand and invent things for his own good. Religion also evolves, but it would be sad for non-Christians not to know Christ and his teachings, for they would do good to the person. Christianity may not be required for a person to do good, but it would certainly help a lot for that person.
I have no explanation about the Jewish holocaust, but just like in positive thinking, not to dwell in the past but hope for a bright future with your present actions. And man was created in the image and likeness of God. We have the necessary faculties for us to use as caretakers of Mother Earth. We were given the means to be caretakers. So we wouldn’t expect God to always intervene in man’s affairs. Otherwise, what’s the point of all these faculties?
You don’t believe that man has a soul, so you don’t believe in ghosts. You also don’t believe the Virgin Mary appeared to the 3 shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal and at a specific date she performed the Miracle of the Sun witnessed by 10,000 (take note: 10,000) people. I wouldn’t think that everyone of them was hallucinating.
Did you know that before someone is declared a saint, a miracle (a phenomenon which could not be explained by science) should be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and there are thousands of saints.
You became an atheist because of modern science which may evolve to explain things further. So you put your trust solely to science.
There are things about the Catholic religion that simply cannot be explained by science where faith steps in (like the transubstantiation where the host is converted to the real body of Christ and the wine to the real blood of Christ)
The teaching of the Catholic church is that once a baby is baptized and dies, he/she becomes an angel.
For centuries, the church believed that an unbaptized baby goes in a state of limbo (eternal bliss but will never be united with God) but this has been changed recently into a mere hope in unity with God.
Christ made up for all sins. I believe before Christ, souls are in a state of purgatory and they were released thru the redeeming death of Christ.
Freedom is not absolute, only relative.
I may not succeed in changing your views. I just felt it was necessary to post since because you have a monopoly in the comments, readers may think they’re valid.

peedro said...

Kapayapaan din kaibigan.

I enjoyed it as well. Sige.

Gregory said...

Well sure, Pian, good that you posted your comments.

I will no longer comment though because I already gave my last piece for this topic.

Enjoy the day.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to Hell? - HOMER SIMPSON ;)

Anonymous said...

Why does God allow evil?

Here's a possible explanation:

http://www.geoffrobinson.net/evil.html

Anonymous said...

Further to what I just posted above, about God seeing the big picture, I remember one of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone. It goes something like this:

In the distant future man finally gets to travel to other planets. One such expedition arrives at a planet around a star that has gone nova in the past. On the planet they discover a structure which the explorers find out to have been a repository of records of a past advanced civilization that has been living in peace for thousands of years. That civilization was wiped out when their star went nova. Later, the scientists on that expedition discover that the star happened to be the star of Bethlehem (the "nova" apparently was most brilliant over Bethlehem, at about the right timeframe). Upon hearing this information, the priest in the expedition started questioning his own beliefs. Why would God do this to a civilization that has been living in peace for a long time now? The answer came to him later, when a poem was deciphered in the records which went something to this effect (forgive me I do not remember this word for word): "Weep not for our passing, for we know that we will perish knowing that others may be saved"...God works in mysterious ways indeed!

rey said...

As for the Atheist wager, it only works if you are talking about Catholic beliefs. From evangelical Christians' point of view, salvation does not come from good works but by accepting Jesus as your God and savior.
Personally, I believe because I have experiences in my life (near death) where I cannot explain but through my prayers. This does not mean that I condone whatever wrong or evil is being done in the name of religion. It's just a personal faith.
As for evolution, there is a good feature (Science section) in New York Times on evolution-development and how it's not random and helped by faster genetic changes. As far as I know, The Catholic Church does not reject evolution en toto but believes that the Bible's story of creation may not be literal. Mitt Romney ( a Mormon presidential candidate) espouse the same view.

Gregory said...

Lots of interesting articles in Richard Dawkins' site (right hand side):

http://richarddawkins.net/


***************

Based on the article posted by anonymous -

"Evil exists. If this is to make any sense, then God exists."

***************************
Sorry - can't help comment:

We always have this duality. Good vs. Evil - and to make things more accessible - -God vs the devil.

Will I even have a concept of what is good without evil? No. The reason I know something is good is because I have a concept of what is not good (evil). Bringing it down into practical terms, I can say something is delicious because I have an idea of what is not delicious. I will not have an idea of "delicious" if all foods and drinks have the same taste and flavor. So my point is - -good cannot exist without evil.

So taking it to the realm of the metaphysical (and yes, I really don't want to go to the metaphysical realm) - there had to be evil because without evil, one would not be able to appreciate the good - and therefore not appreciate the source of all goodness - which is god.

So god's existence therefore is conditioned on the existence of evil. Think of it - without evil - why even need salvation. Why even need religion or the Church for that matter. Why even need god. If all was good and there was no evil, would we even need this thing called "salvation." No, we wouldn't.

So did god create evil? Well - most of you would say - no, he didn't create evil. If he did - and you see all the horrendous evil in the world - you probably would say that this god is not deserving of my worship.

So I'll assume most if not all of you say that god did not create evil.

So if god didn't create evil, who did. As I said, evil has to exist to validate god's existence. To repeat - without evil, why even need a god or salvation?

So if god didn't create evil - then evil co-existed with god or appeared thereafter?

If you say no one created evil, not even god, then that means something can exist without god having created it.

If you say though something had to create it (because you are stuck with the paradigm that every effect must have a cause), then does this mean there is another deity out there that created evil?

If you say though that well - evil simply exists - -no one had to create it - then why assume that someone had to create something/goodness.

Now, if you say however that man created evil - - how can god's creation, which is good, be now the creator of evil. And assuming that you will argue that "good" doesn't mean perfect, and therefore capable of evil, are you saying that the earthquakes that kill men, or droughts that starve people, or the floods that drown children - -certainly evil things (evil in the sense that we don't want these things to happen) - - -were created by man?

(now - let's not go to the environmental arguments. Sometimes, floods can be cause by man when he does illegal logging activities. I am talking here of generic floods, generic earthquakes, generic droughts, etc. in the course of human history)

*******************

I DO NOT EXPECT TO CONVINCE EVERYONE. THOSE WHO ARE DEEPLY RELIGIOUS WILL NOT BE SWAYED. BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE THINKING AND SEARCHING, I HOPE THE THINGS I POSTED ON THIS SITE WILL GET YOU THINKING MORE. HOW YOU WILL RESOLVE THINGS IN YOUR TIME WILL DEPEND ENTIRELY ON YOU.

ISN'T THE INTERNET GREAT. KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMATION ARE SHARED BY PEOPLE. PEOPLE CAN DIALOG. AND BECAUSE OF THIS INTERACTION AND EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION, THERE REALLY IS REASON TO CELEBRATE.

Gregory said...

Oh - -and if you say man created evil (maybe the general evil things and not the cataclysmic, natural evil like earthquakes) - and here's the kicker:

Then man created the condition that made the existence of god necessary.

So question - who created god? Man created god because man made it possible for god to exist by creating evil.

And we still haven't accounted to the cataclysmic evils. Who created this? Man. I don't think so. Man didn't create killer earthquakes. So who did. I think you will not go to the extend of saying god did.

So there - - I hope I made the minds of those who use theirs working. Something for you to think about.

********************

I WILL ADMIT. WHEN I STARTED THINKING AND QUESTIONING, IT WAS REALLY TROUBLING. HAVING LIVED MY ENTIRE LIFE BELIEVING AND LIVING MY LIFE ON THE BASIS OF THAT BELIEF. AND SUDDENLY, I WAS TURNING EVERYTHING UPSIDE DOWN. AGAIN, THE ROAD WAS NOT A STRAIGHT PATH. IT TOOK 2-3 YEARS FOR ME TO FIGURE THINGS OUT. I DON'T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS OF COURSE. AND I DON'T SEEK TO KNOW EVERYTHING. HOWEVER, THERE IS A CERTAIN PEACE YOU ACHIEVE WHEN:

1. YOU REALIZE THAT YOU ARE NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE,

2. THAT YOU, BY NATURE ARE GOOD-BAD BUT SHOULD STRIVE TO BE GOOD,

3. THAT YOU ONLY HAVE ONE LIFE AND SHOULD MAKE THE MOST OF IT BECAUSE YOU WON'T GET A SECOND CHANCE IN AN AFTER-LIFE,

4. THAT SOME THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL AND SOMETHINGS YOU SIMPLY CAN'T,

5. THAT MEANING IS NOT SOMETHING OUT THERE TO BE FOUND OR SEARCHED - IT IS SOMETHING YOU CREATE,

6. AND THAT SOMETIMES, SEEMINGLY SENSELESS THINGS ARE SIMPLY SENSELESS AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO FIND MEANING IN SENSELESSNESS AND SEEK A JUSTIFICATION/REASON FOR THEIR EXISTENCE (this is not to say that I cannot grow and learn from such situations).

Gregory said...

One of the reasons people hold on to the belief in a deity is that they feel that some things in their lives simply could not have happened randomly. In other words, because that particular event happened, luck alone could not have explained it. As some people would put it: It's too much of a coincidence.

The hardest argument to go against is an experiential argument. No one can ever deny your experience and what you made or thought of it.

And I totally understand that situation. I am not this cold, thinking person who reduces everything into intellectual jargon. I too underwent things that were hard, difficult, and painful in life. In the past, I had a faith to hold on to. And many times, I was amazed at how things "just happened." Timing perfect, etc.

However, under my new paradigm, there were moments too in my present life that are also difficult but I continue and persist without having to rely on a deity. Instead, I rely on the support of family/friends, in my own mental faculties and positive attitudes, in great books and literature, positive passages, etc. And when the good things happen, I rejoice and express gratitude to those who helped or if now, just having a feeling of gratefulness for the whole situation. When the bad times persist, I persevere, or sometimes, see if there is a new path to take.

Now - - let me tell you a story about a friend. I won't give you all the details but I'll eventually make a point at the end:

I have a friend who migrated abroad. He has a family. He was looking for a job and found one - but needed a higher paying job because he was bringing his family to this new country. On the day that he was flying back home to spend the holidays and to fetch his family, he got an offer for a high paying job. The job offer arrived in time.

According to him, his prayers were answered. And also, according to him, assuming that he didn't believe in prayers, how could he explain the fact that the job offer arrived just in time. To him, it was a miracle. No amount of chance or luck could explain the timing of the arrival of the job.

I'm sure you have other stories that can top that. Stories involving death perhaps. Some stories appear simply amazing. And we are amazed because of their timeliness, how they changed our lives, etc.

But let's step back a bit, temper the euphoria and think:

My friend didn't get the job because he was just sitting at home watching TV. He got the job because for 2 months, he was sending resumes to companies and interviewing with them. In other words, he increased his chances of getting a job by taking steps to find one.

To therefore say that getting the job was utterly random is false. It was not random. In fact, it was very probable because he set the motions that eventually lead to him getting it.

(At the same time, he had the experiences in the past that made him a fit for the job. If his experiences were totally not a fit, do you think he would get the job - no matter how much he wanted it?)

Now, the boss that eventually offered him the job was also looking for someone to fill the job. So it wasn't as if he was hired out of the blue.

You would now raise the whole issue of timing. I agree. Wasn't the timing great. It was - enough to make you kiss everyone around you.

Anyway, the thing is - the timing wasn't purely random. It may have been random from YOUR POINT OF VIEW, but from the point of view of the EMPLOYER, his timing was based on his hiring schedule. Maybe he needed one to fill the position within a three week schedule. Within that period, he interviewed several people and eventually offered it to my friend. Or, maybe, he already knew he wanted to get my friend but wanted to make sure the budget for his salary was approved first before offering the position. Whatever it is - his actions were deliberate. Now, let's say the employer got sick for two weeks and therefore offered the job eventually to my friend on the day he offered it. To my friend, timing was perfect. To the employer, the timing to him was factual - he got sick and therefore made the offer when he was feeling okay.

The point is - this whole randomness thing isn't really totally random. There are aspects that you might consider random and unexplainable. And that's a totally valid observation. But sometimes, your idea of randomness is influenced by that fact that you have no complete information about the situation or in the euphoria of your situation, you tend to diminish the fact that you actually enabled the situation to happen by taking the steps to reach it.

In the meantime, prior to that job offer, he was rejected in other job attempts. He "justified" those rejection situations by saying, something will come along that will be better. Or he told himself - it's not meant to be.

However, had he gotten a different job offer prior to even applying for this job that he eventually got, he probably would not have pursued this latter job and say that getting that first offer was a "miracle and timely."

In the meantime, if he didn't get this job, he would continue to seek a job, go home with the thought that when he comes back, he needs to find a job so that he can support his family. To make himself feel better - he will say - "In god's time. There's a reason for everything."

AS YOU CAN SEE, MAN TRIES TO MAKE SENSE OF EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO HIM. WHATEVER SITUATION HAPPENED TO MY FRIEND, HE WILL ALWAYS HAVE AN EXPLANATION FOR IT. IF THINGS GO WELL - GOD WILLED IT. AND IF THINGS GO BAD - WELL, GOD HAS HIS REASONS OR IT'S NOT MEANT TO BE.

MY FRIENDS - - THINK OF THIS. LIFE HAS NO MEANING OTHER THAN THE MEANING WE ASCRIBE TO IT. IT IS US THAT BUT MEANING AND INTERPRETATIONS IN OUR LIVES. THERE WAS NO MEANING OR REASON INDEPENDENT OF WHAT WE MAKE IT TO BE.

Now, I cannot change your paradigm if that is how you see things - in the eyes of God. But what I am doing through this example is to show that while we seem to dismiss the randomness of life, we fail to see that what we sometimes perceive as random isn't random at all.

If you got lost with what I said, let me summarize quickly:


1. My friend got the job not because it fell from the sky. He got it because he took steps that logically - would being about the job offer. So was getting the job a random event? No it wasn't.

2. As to the outcome, he had no complete "control" over it. However, to the extent that he can, he helped bring about the outcome by preparing for the interview, having the right experience for job, etc.

3. As to timing, he didn't have control over it. The EMPLOYER had control over that. How the timing was selected though was due to many factors - information for which me and my friend does not have. Perhaps, if the employer didn't find a match, he was willing to go on and make the offer to the right candidate in the future. Or, as I said, he just waited for the budget to be approved. Again, I won't know nor will my friend know because we do not have that inside information.

ANYWAY, I RECALL WHAT MY STATISTICS PROFESSOR IN B-SCHOOL TOLD US. I DON'T HAVE THE EXACT WORDS NOW BUT IN EFFECT, HE SAID SOMETHING THAT IS MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE ON STATISTICS IN WIKIPEDIA:

Randomness is an objective property. Nevertheless, what appears random to one observer may not appear random to another observer. Consider two observers of a sequence of bits, only one of whom has the cryptographic key needed to turn the sequence of bits into a readable message. The message is not random, but is for one of the observers unpredictable.

One of the intriguing aspects of random processes is that it is hard to know whether the process is truly random. The observer can always suspect that there is some "key" that unlocks the message. This is one of the foundations of superstition and is also what is a driving motive, curiosity, for discovery in science and mathematics.


HMMMMM - -COME TO THINK OF IT - - -MAYBE WE ARE CONFUSING RANDOMNESS WITH UNPREDICTABILITY. The fact that my friend would get the job was probable because he sent his resume to the company and had the experiences that would be a fit. The situation therefore was not random. But whether or not he would get it was unpredictable.

**********************

MY FRIENDS, STATISTICS DOES HAVE PHILOSOPHICAL AND RELIGIOUS IMPLICATIONS! :-)

To the fans of the Internet: Isn't the internet great. I mean - - knowledge is so accessible now-a-days. And when put to good use, such knowledge can be the source of much enlightenment. :-)

Gregory said...

Religion and politics debate:

Sam Harris vs. Chris Hedges

Watch it!

http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/
item/20070617_religion_politics
_and_the_end_of_the_world/

Scholar Feng said...

I've never really understood the false dichotomy that the mass media drives between evolution and faith. One of my strongest faith-experiences, in fact, came when I programmed a genetic algorithm in my third year in college. To me, the fact that a stochastic system can arrive at an optimal solution to a mathematical problem given environmental constraints is proof enough for the existence of God.

And yet I speak nonsense to everyone else. Since the only appropriate proof of the existence of a personal God is personal experience itself, there is absolutely no way a person holding a conviction for one side be convinced to join another side through objective proofs.

In fact, it is because of this attempt to have a rational discourse about a personal God divorced from its personal roots that modern atheism has arisen.

Nonetheless, it is bound to happen, but what is particularly sad is that theists cannot give this personal experience to the atheists for we profess to believe in a God, but act as atheists.

That's why I admire the good doctor -- at least his faith moves him to do something concrete.

Gregory said...

Scholar Feng:

Since the only appropriate proof of the existence of a personal God is personal experience itself, there is absolutely no way a person holding a conviction for one side be convinced to join another side through objective proofs.

******************************

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

On the issue of things being purely personal, then I guess Ahkmed, who has a personal experience that affirms that Allah is THE ONE TRUE GOD and that Jesus is not the son of God has to be correct. Oh but wait, Christopher has a personal experience that it is Jesus who is the one true God. No, no - -wait - - Prakash says that Brahma is god. Oh - -I forgot - - - that Greek fellow from 2500 years ago truly experienced Zeus as the true god. Oh by the way, Richard Dawkins' experience is that there is no god.

Anyway - think of this (and I was having a discussion with a friend on this):

Certain people in the past would attribute the curing of their particular illness to the divine. That god performed a miracle for them and saved them. Now - that is a personal experience. Can I deny that personal experience? No I can't. Was that personal experience "real" to those people who were cured. Yes, it was. And they will attest that they were cured by god. Then 200 years later, science comes a long to state that the cure wasn't due to a "miracle" (that is, from a supernatural cause) but due to let's say, water that they drank from the river which got mixed with this chemical from a plant that rotted (let's say plant had potassium). And today, that disease is cured by taking this medicine with potassium.

Okay. My friend would say - okay, grated that's what happened, the fact is a miracle did happen from the point of view of those people who got cured. And he says - whether something is a miracle or not should be judged from the point of view of the affected person. If his personal experience tells him there was a miracle, then, there has to be a miracle.

My point of view is this. Sure - that person "experienced" a miracle. To him, it was real and existed. No one outside of that experience can deny it. However, 200 years later, those who discovered the situation can objectively say that the cure was not due to a miracle (i.e., a supernatural event) but can simply be explained using simple science/medicine.

Now - does this mean there was a miracle from an objective point of view. No there was not. The fact that someone thinks there was a miracle does not remove the fact that the today, science/medicine can show that the curing was not due to a supernatural event but can be explained through natural causes.

As a side note, if everything was personal and the validity of experience is all that's necessary, what made you conclude that Christ (I am assuming you are a Christian) is the Son of God and that Thor, Zeus, Ra are not the one and true god? Aren't the experiences of others also valid because they experienced it and therefore you can't deny it. And what about the polytheists who believe through personal experience that there are several gods in the sky.

And what about those who make claims today that God spoke to them, told them to found a religion, and to tell the world that it is ending in 20 years. Didn't they experience God too and therefore their experience has validity.

Gregory said...

Anyway - here's something to think about using Matrix-speak:

In the Matrix, which pill would you take, the red or the blue?

The film as a whole and especially the choosing scene is deeply compelling. Why is the choice between what you believe you know and an unknown 'real' truth so fascinating? How could a choice possibly be made? On the one hand everyone you love and everything that you have built you life upon. One the other the promise only of truth.

The question then is not about pills, but what they stand for in these circumstances. The question is asking us whether reality, truth, is worth pursuing. The blue pill will leave us as we are, in a life consisting of habit, of things we believe we know. We are comfortable, we do not need truth to live. The blue pill symbolises commuting to work every day, or brushing your teeth.

The red pill is an unknown quantity. We are told that it can help us to find the truth. We don't know what that truth is, or even that the pill will help us to find it. The red pill symbolises risk, doubt and questioning. In order to answer the question, you can gamble your whole life and world on a reality you have never experienced.

However, in order to investigate which course of action to take we need to investigate why the choice is faced. Why should we even have to decide whether to pursue truth?

The answer in short, is inquisitiveness. Many people throughout human existence have questioned and enquired. Most of them have not been scientists or doctors or philosophers, but simply ordinary people asking 'what if?' or 'why?' Asking these questions ultimately leads us to a choice. Do you continue to ask and investigate, or do you stop and never ask again? This in essence, is the question posed to Neo in the film.

Excerpted from: http://www.arrod.co.uk/
essays/matrix.php

Scholar Feng said...

Miracles were not exactly what I had in mind when it comes to faith-experiences. With so many hoaxes and better scientific evidence nowadays, the triviality and inauthenticity of arguing for faith based on "miracles" is just too obvious.

Arguing for faith based on a stupid wager is also out of the question. It is nuts to put your existence on the a very shaky probabilistic reasoning.

Instead, the faith-experience that I had in mind was the very struggling with the presence, or rather, the absence of God in our personal life.

I can't speak for other religious traditions, but this sort of thought is an old one from Judeo-Christian traditions. In the original Jewish Temple, the Jews believed that the presence of God resided in the Holy of Holies, an inner sanctum in the Temple.

During the attack of the Romans on Jerusalem, some Roman soldiers managed to enter the Temple to loot precious items, and they thought that the most precious items would be kept in the Holy of Holies. But what did they find? Nothing. An empty room.

It is the experience of the night of faith -- with it, the burning down all the pseudo-faith experiences -- that is most compelling. The greatest mystics of the Church have all gone through this test of fire.

It is not a matter of choosing the blue or red pill, in your analogy, for authentic faith would require you to always take the red pill. Herein lies the pathos of authentic faith: risk, doubt, and uncertainty will begin to haunt even the most devout of mystics.

Gregory said...

I like the way you express yourself Scholar Feng.

I am glad to see your conviction with respect to faith.

But what I am more impressed with is your openness to taking the red pill. And the fact that you said - "of course, the red pill" shows that you are open-minded about things.

If 10 years ago (I am 34 now) I tried to guess what my outlook in life would be, I would never have thought that I would become a recovering Catholic. I have always been steadfast in my faith, and have maintained it based on my personal experiences too as well as through reason (theology, etc.). The changes in my viewpoint began in 2003 and continues to this day. However, the big break happened 2 years after landing in the States.

I am not saying that in time, perhaps you will have an experience similar to mine. We all have our lives to live and your path will be different from mine.

All I want to say is that remain open to the surprises of life because they do come in all shapes, forms, and sizes.

Gregory said...

Yes- I do know that you were not referring to miracles when you mentioned faith experiences. However, often, these faith experiences involve some supernatural explanation of an event and therefore has parallels to a miracle:

e.g., I am grateful to God because although I didn't get "this", and instead got "this other", it turns out that this other was a blessing.

e.g., I was really depressed and lost. But after praying hard and listening to his will, I found my way.

In a sense - -all these are miracles because they are events where a supernatural force/explanation accounts for their occurrence.

Anyway, enough said on my part.

Gregory said...

So if you see God in the occurrence of events in your life (either as a direct or indirect influence), I do not see a supernatural explanation to personal events in my life.

Does this mean though that I make a conscious effort to deny that God is not involved whenever something happens in my life (in other words, is the absence of God the permeating viewpoint of my life). No. Because atheism is not a way of life. It simply means that I do not believe in a deity (personal god). Nonetheless, I still put and ascribe meaning to events in my life.

So this was just a clarification of how I view things in my life.

Gregory said...

Okay - here's something for those in the Catholic faith can ponder:

Having completed the course of her earthly life, the Virgin Mary was assumed BODY and SOUL into heavenly glory.

This means the Virgin Mary was lifted to the sky completely to join God, Jesus, and the angels.

This is not in the bible. And that's perfectly fine. Stories have been circulating since the 5th century AD about Mary's assumption.

Now, according to papal infallibility, Pope Pius XII, by action of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from even the possibility of error when he solemnly declared or promulgated to the Church this dogma of Mary's Assumption.

Suspend first all what you've been taught in Catholic School, etc.

Assuming, you never heard of Mary, or the pope, and someone told you:

Well, there's a fellow, who prayed and thought hard about things, and fortunately, through the actions of this unseen spirit, he has declared that a certain lady, upon completing life here on earth, was brought up to the heavens, body and soul. And according to him, his declaration on this matter is definitely, 100% correct. No way he committed a mistake because the spirit never makes a mistake on a matter such as this one.

If you heard a story like this - you wouldn't even think twice about dismissing it.

Anyway - take the red pill on this matter.

Also, I know a lot of Catholics who when asked - do you believe in a place called heaven and a place called hell? - would answer:

Come on now. Heaven and hell is not a place. It is a state of mind. Heaven is that state of eternal joy because God is forever present. Hell on the other hand is the total absence of God.

Okay - assuming this is the thinking of many Catholics - so where is Mary's body now if it was lifted to the heavens.

If heaven is a state of mind, so where did the body go? So is it floating now in outer space?

So what is it - -is heaven a place or a state of mind.

If you say - no one knows because aside from Jesus (and Lazarus?) - no one has come back from the dead to tell us what heaven is like - -
So what is it really?

Anyway, please do think hard about it.

I know - -people will say - -it is faith. I accept even if I truly do not fully understand and all these will be revealed when I die.

I don't expect an answer from these people.

But to the reasonable laity, I hope you will ask questions and be open to other ideas about this whole thing.

I'll throw in additional stuff on other teachings in the future.











(from Wikipedia: The point of her bodily death has not been infallibly defined, and many believe that she did not die at all, but was assumed directly into Heaven. Indeed, the papal decree which infallibly proclaims the doctrine of the Assumption, the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, leaves open the question whether, in connection with her departure, Mary underwent bodily death; that is, it does not dogmatically define the point one way or the other, as shown by the words "having completed the course of her earthly life".)

Gregory said...

Here's another thing for Catholics to think about:

According to the RCC, Jesus willingly sacrificed himself as an act of perfect obedience as a Substitutionary atonement, a sacrifice of love which pleased God.

What does substitutionary atonement mean? It means that Jesus Christ died on the Cross as a substitute for sinners.

My question is - -why is God - - in this case - God the father - - so blood thirsty and demanding of human sacrifice.

All this really is mythological.

If we claim that God is all loving, and full of compassion and forgiveness, couldn't then he just have forgiven man for his sins.

I think I can hear it coming - oh - yes - -he does love us so much that he gave us his only son who sacrificed his life to save us. In other words - God himself sacrificed himself to save us.

Honestly - was that an efficient way of saving us? If he really wanted to save us - -wasn't it enough that he forgave us.

Now - -someone might continue the argument here with a theological argument. Or say - well, it's not for me to say whether it was efficient or not. It is God's choice and if he chose that way, we should accept it.

All I am doing when pointing these things out if to simply to get people thinking.

I would like to say that by pointing these things out, I am not disrespecting your beliefs. However, if, as many would agree, there is nothing wrong in questioning, then, part of that questioning is to bring up specific aspects of faith and belief and to point out certain things that don't make sense.

And when I point out these things, my hope is that the reasonable laity will at least consider the possibility of all these being part of mythology.

Lalon said...

Mr. Gregory you seem to really know what you're talking about but i just wanna politely ask you a question?

"don't you think the reason why people are resorting in believing that there is a God or a supreme being can be due to the fact that sometimes we need to be afraid of someone just for us to act [more] human?"

i'm actually not religious and HATES a lot of things about it.. but i don't consider myself an atheist for i still have a lot of questions that needs answer through self-discovery.

i used to believe in the saying "Only fools believe that there is no God" not until i see your views here.. not until now.. i'm questioning myself more actually.

have a nice day.. please drop by my blog for you response.. thanks.

http://lalondelarosa.blogspot.com

Gregory said...

Hi Lalon - thanks for your post.

I am glad you are asking questions. It could be unsettling to question especially when you had built your life on certain certainties.

I also built my life on certain certainties before. And call it my own "faith experience" in 2003 - it just hit me (as I recounted in an earlier post here). And while I didn't give it much thought then, and the issue didn't haunt me again until almost a year later, I decided not to deny my curiosity and to stand steadfast. Instead, I decided to "let go" and "lose myself" and in the end, I believe I found something valuable.

From my story above, someone might think that I was talking about finding god. What's interesting is that it involved instead letting go of the idea of god.

Now - you mentioned this thing:
"sometimes we need to be afraid of someone just for us to act [more] human?"

Well, I have my thoughts on this and they're rooted again on evolution.

The actions we consider good and bad today (and again, there is much diversity on what is considered good/evil although there is universal agreement on general acts that are simply considered evil or good - like genocide for example is considered universally as evil)didn't just happen.

The came about from human experiences starting from our ancestors who, through reason and observation, found out that certain actions were beneficial to the growth and stability of a society (whatever that unit is) and certain actions were not.

Perhaps, in the past, killing someone when someone angered you was normal. But then, our cavemen forebears found out that killing someone because you are angry wasn't really a good idea because it probably caused a series of vendetta, etc. (I am uber simplifying things here).

The point is, human existence and experiences show us that certain actions are good for society, and some are not.

These "learnings" were eventually passed on, first through oral traditions, and then in writing to future generations. Some were codified into "divine texts".

That's why when we see the bible, there certain things there which we consider inhuman today. That's because over time, man has refined and will, in the course of time, continue to refine these things which he/she would consider as good/evil actions.

Now, in order to achieve enforcement, some texts would invoke divinity. That god, through man, revealed these truths. And the failure to follow these things merit punishment. And then you have the concept of sin, etc., etc.

Sometimes we think that what is good/evil is only something that we know through biblical texts, etc. No. This whole question of good/evil is something that philosophers, ethicists, people of literature, of history, etc. talk about and discuss. Even those making the law continuously ponder this question (e.g., Law on Sexual Harrassment, Cybercrimes, etc.). We sometimes think that without god and the bible, the world would be one chaotic place where every human will be doing what he pleases and that the entire society will be going to the dogs.

I will admit that religious texts have something valuable to teach. And that fact that people cherry pick which parts of the Bible are not worth following (e.g., genocide episodes, etc.) and those that are worth following shows that reason is involved when determining what is good/evil.

Anyway, if belief in a god that dispenses justice is something that keeps you from doing evil, then so be it. But that is like saying, even in your adult life, you won't do certain things because dad/mom won't approve of it. Is that being mature? I don't think so.

I think the more prudent course is to do good because by using your reasonable mind, you know that something is worth doing or is right. Use all the sources available to you in determining what is right - - what you learned, what you read in literature, in contemporary books, from people who discuss ethics, from philosophers, from what you see in movies, from what you read in the bible (if you want to remain religious), from what scientists have to say, etc.

Fashion your life by listening and not closing your mind simply because "the bible said so" or "our church believes this is so."

Most importantly, do things not out of fear but out of conviction and reason.

So for example - - and this just came to my mind - - if your church says that artificial contraception is not good - - -learn the issue from various points of views. Don't adopt a position because "that's what the bible said" or "my leaders said it is wrong and as a member of the group I will support it." Often, if that is your stance, you will find reasons to support your position rather than honestly seeking various points of views to come up with your position.

And so that's what's critical thinking is all about. Do not be scared to discover, to search, etc. You will not be punished for questioning. Fear will only hinder you from being "true" by serving as a mental barrier towards questioning.

Sorry for rambling on here Lalon.

Yes, I will check your blog.

********************

A quick note: When my curiosity was ignited in the States, I read books, watched shows, talked to friends, etc. All these helped shaped my views.

In your search, do not internalize everything. Contrary to the thinking that everything is personal, you've got to seek out all points of views. Talk to people, read books, check out discussions in forums, or read topics in Wikipedia. There are so many sources to help you think things through.

But also, while your search is important, do not get too absorbed in it. In other words, don't take things too seriously. Life is short. So have your share of fun too.

And while we certainly know that some things are just plain evil and therefore, regardless of whether you fear a god or not, you will simply not do (e.g., killing, raping, etc.), don't get caught up in these other "sin" issues too much. :-)


I didn't edit or reread this. I am sure lots of typos, etc. Sorry for rambling on.

Gregory said...

I visited your site. Well, you sure have the right attitude from what I saw there.

As you wrote in your blog: “Don’t be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own. Love will open every door, it’s in your hands, the world is yours. Don’t hold back and always know, all the answers will unfold. What are you waiting for? Spread your wings and SOAR!”


Try to know what you can know in our short lives. We won't know everything. But we certainly can know more if we let ourselves do the thinking and not let some person/group do the thinking for us.

Listen to all disciplines. Not just one discipline (e.g., religious discipline).

So many opportunities now to learn and dialog with people. Take advantage of it.

(e.g., during my time in college - early 90's - -I didn't have this kind of access. So generally, my thoughts and views were shaped by my particular context. But you now have so much access to the thoughts of the world. Not just from people in your school, your country. You have the minds of world at your disposal. Use it. And use it wisely.)

Gregory said...

i used to believe in the saying "Only fools believe that there is no God" not until i see your views

************************

This is really a heartening comment.

Honestly, in the past, I also thought that to be an atheist meant that one sided with Hitler, Stalin, communists, etc. Or that atheists were part of the Satanic cult or that they were on the side of the devil.

It sounds funny to me now. But seriously. One reason I didn't entertain the thought of even denying god is that I didn't want to be associated with the atheists.

However, due to exposure, I soon realized that atheism IS NOT A WAY OF LIFE OR A SYSTEM OF BELIEFS.

Atheism is NOT ANOTHER RELIGION.

In fact, atheism simply means that one does not believe in the existence of a deity. That's all.

Now - how I organize my life, my systems of beliefs, are based on many sources. Certain teachings of religion (and I belong to the Monotheistic tradition) makes sense to me. So I adopt them. I still believe in forgiveness. I still believe to love thy neighbor. I have not denied these teachings. But I also read the writings of philosophers, of journalists, have watched movies that express human learnings, have talked to good people who are not religious, politicians who have the good of the public in mind, the internet blogs and articles, the views of scientists, etc. All of these serve as guides in my daily living.

So do I need a DEITY to be good. No I don't.

Do I need a DEITY to give meaning in my life. No I don't. I create the meaning for my experiences.

Do I need a church to tell me what to do. No I don't. If I happen to agree with a stance of the church on an issue because it makes sense to me, then I will agree. But I will not take positions because "the Church said so" or the "bible said so."

Am a a devil worshiper? Of course not.

Do I believe in the inhumanity of Stalin and Hitler? Of course not.


Do I believe that man can do anything that he pleases? Of course not.

Anyway - - - I am really happy to hear that you have seen that atheists are no fools or that they are evil or that they are devil worshippers or that they are communists, etc.

That's the beauty of our open society and the growing connectedness of the world - - - the exchange of information makes people break down their biases, prior notions, etc.

pian said...

TO GREGORY
How can you say that atheism is not a way of life but it affects the way you live? Like you can do bad things as long as they are done in secret or you don’t get caught (like lie/cheat/steal etc.) Or you wouldn’t help the poor because you wouldn’t get any merit in the afterlife for you don’t believe in souls?
I think of sin as working like the law of science: For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. For every sin, there’s a consequence.
The internet, like all of man’s inventions, has both good and bad sides. It’s good to have questions, but another thing to become an atheist.
You claim to be a freethinker, and yet you can’t accept the fact that there are things about the Catholic religion that could simply not be explained by science, and that’s where FAITH steps in (and an example I gave earlier was the transubstantiation).
I know it would be pointless to argue with you, I just hope otherwise for most readers especially to those I invited to this blog.

Gregory said...

Like you can do bad things as long as they are done in secret or you don’t get caught (like lie/cheat/steal etc.)

Or you wouldn’t help the poor because you wouldn’t get any merit in the afterlife for you don’t believe in souls?

***************************

My friends - dangerous thoughts indeed. And living proof that the intolerance in many religions has produced in the minds of many a picture that is not even reasonable or realistic.

All I will say is - to the reasonable laity, please judge for yourself the unbelievable claims of the statement.


****************************
****************************

You claim to be a freethinker, and yet you can’t accept the fact that there are things about the Catholic religion that could simply not be explained by science, and that’s where FAITH steps in (and an example I gave earlier was the transubstantiation


*Well, science will not even attempt to explain transubstantiation because to science, the idea is simply metaphysical and invented. It's like saying - - come on now science, please explain the idea of the unicorn, or the fairies. If you can't explain it - then just accept in faith because you can't prove everything anyway.

***************

Yes, pian. It's pointless. Trust me. You're not my "target" market. :-) Plus, I am not here to proselytize. It am here to throw ideas into the open and tickle the minds of people to think. Reason above all.

Gregory said...

I will do good because I think it is right and reasonable. I don't need a carrot to convince me to do good things. If there is an objectivity on what is good as what many people claim to be - then shouldn't it be enough that one do good because the act itself is worthy in and of itself. There isn't any need to do go because of an expectation of a reward.

Again, what is more noble? A person who helps the poor because he believes that as part of the human family, one must do something to make people reach their potential while on earth OR a person who helps the poor because he believes that by helping the poor, he will be rewarded in an afterlife in heaven?

*************

Pian - for you to suggest that I advocated doing bad things such as lying, cheating, etc. simply because I deny the existence of a deity is absolutely incredible.

If you got that impression because I made an earlier comment not to be too worried about "smaller sins" - then again - totally wrong impression.

I don't live my life thinking whether there is this person in the skies who keeps reading my thoughts, checking what I am doing, recording what I did right and what I did wrong. Nope. I don't live that life because I don't live in a police state or in Nazi Germany.

Rather, I live my life in as human, ethical way as possible because I know that with just one life to live, it is best that we use it doing good making an impact in this world. However, I don't concern myself with things such as - contraceptive is evil, or that if you ate meat on good friday, you didn't sacrifice that much, or that if you didn't go to church, that's not a good idea, or that if I don't confess, my sins won't be forgiven.

Gregory said...

It’s good to have questions, but another thing to become an atheist.

***************

So I assume you are saying, the mere fact that one does not believe in a god, that that person is EVIL.

Even if the person does good works, helps society, etc., the mere fact that the person does not believe in a deity, that person is EVIL.

If you see things in black and white, as I would suppose so based on your previous statements, please tell the readers here what you think:

1. An atheist who is ethical in his actions, believes there is one life to live and there's no afterlife, and sincerely tries to be good to himself and the world.

GOOD OR EVIL?


2. A Catholic who goes to mass everyday, professes belief in Jesus Christ, but cheats in his business and beats up his wife.

GOOD OR EVIL?

I am asking you to simply give a general answer - who would you think is evil or good (and I am not asking you to judge the person on whether the person will go to heaven or hell).

What makes a person good - -his actions or his affiliation?

Thank you in advance for your responses.

pian said...

TO GREGORY
I admit I’m doing my obligations to the barest minimum primarily out of fear. So I could not concretely answer your questions. Besides, I couldn’t afford to wager to God that I deserve a place in heaven because I did this and that. It’s just too risky for me. And that’s God’s kingdom. So I gave a concrete example to my previous post regarding the Blessed Virgin appearing to the 3 shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal where she showed an image of hell (pretty scary). And to prove these visions authentic, she performed the miracle of the Sun at a specific date witnessed by more than 10,000 people. Pretty authentic. I thought that fear would be a good motivation, that’s probably what the Blessed Virgin thought. And these visions were proven.
It may not be perfect but it works for me anyway to avoid doing bad things, while allowing me to have the discipline in performing my religious obligations, no matter how minimum. It would be like Pascal’s wager.
So I thought if Science can explain the parting of the Red Sea, then it could be a miracle of coincidence. For the elements that caused the sea to part took place just when the Israelites were by the shore and the Egyptians were chasing them. Or when Mel Gibson had his face repaired, it so happened that the priest he confessed to knew of a plastic surgeon and that changed his life. Or I’ve realized from what I’ve read that who made the laws of nature that govern the universe. Man may have evolved from apes, but only man has a soul.

Gregory said...

Man may have evolved from apes, but only man has a soul.

*Please read evolution. Man did not evolve from apes. This is an oversimplification. You can read Wikipedia on this.

**********************

So I thought if Science can explain the parting of the Red Sea, then it could be a miracle of coincidence.

*It looks like you interpret the Bible literally. Now, the weird thing is - -sometimes, many Christians cherry pick. They say this miracle is merely symbolic. And then for the next miracle, they say this is real. So like the multiplication of loaves - theologians say - the miracle here was the "sharing", and that bread did not multiply (as in 1 bread became 5000). However, for some other text, they would say - that was a miracle. So what is the basis for saying one is a "symbolic miracle" and another miracle is really, truly a miracle.

As to the parting, (from Wikipedia), there have been considerable and varied modern attempts to find the non-supernatural origin for the story. Some of the more popular include a tsunami produced by the explosion of a volcano on the island of Thera around 1550-1500BC or 1650-1600BC (the date is contentious), with the retreating waters before the large tsunami allowing the Israelites to pass and then returning to drown the Egyptians, or a wind drying out a shallow lake somewhere near the head of the Red Sea, around the Reed Sea so that the Israelites could cross on foot but the Egyptian chariots could not follow.

But that is really not the crux. I think if one person was really critically thinking, one would even wonder why God would "kill" people and drown them. Because god preferred the Israelites, he decided to "save" them and kill the egyptians instead.

Of course, to the israelites, that was a timely "salvation" and so they praise god. In the meantime, what to make of those who died.

So in this moral tale, you have the israelites made out as good people and the egyptians made out as the bad people.

History oftentimes is the account of the victor.

If you would notice, the god in the OT is a very vindictive god. He would resort to "killing" people in order to show his favoritism to the israelites.

Try to picture things now. Lets talk about the crusades for example. In the crusades, the christian forces wanted to convert the moslems. They succeeded at first but eventually were repulsed. To the moslems, they were saved by god. They were able to kill many christians in the process and claimed that god was on their side. On the other hand, when the christians were winning in the beginning, they claimed god was on their side and in the process killed a lot of moslems.

Friends - -critical thinking is needed. If you think inside the box - you will stick to what you've been taught. That god saved the israelites and god loves his chosen people.

But push the envelope and think of the situation. Try to find parallels in history. And then you will see that really, a lot of these stories are the root causes of all the hatreds/killings in the middle east today.

FOR ONE GROUP TO CLAIM THAT GOD IS ON THEIR SIDE AND THAT THE OTHER GROUP HAS BEEN KILLED OR VANQUISHED BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT ON THE SIDE OF GOD IS DANGEROUS.

Now, of course, sometimes, there is the so-called just war - like WWII for example. So consider that an exception. Oftentimes though, religious wars are often based on bigotry, hatred, and claims that god is on the side of one over the other.

*****************

I've read and known the Christian tradition all my life and I decided to learn and open my mind to other disciplines.

I see Pian that you are staunchly defending the faith. And that's cool.

Problem is - you don't seem to know the other side's (actually, it's not a side but sides because I am talking of the views of ethicists, philosophers, artists, writers, etc.) views. I hope you will also read the other side because honestly, it seems that all you're doing is defending.

I challenge you to read:

Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion and

Christopher Hitchen's book God is not great.

On my part - -I know the bible, I know many things in theology because I had 8 years of theology (college/hs), and went to catholic schools all my life. So I can't be blamed for throwing views without knowing the views of the other.

And please - -please - - -read evolution. I noticed this. Evolution was not properly taught back home and therefore people make all these comments that:

Man evolved from the apes (wrong - evolution never said that). Evolution said man and the apes have a common ancestor and they both descended from that common ancestor.

Or that

Evolution is totally random. Wrong again. I explained this in an earlier post.

*************************

To the thinking populace out there:

Why is it that the Bible has a monopoly of all the miracles and then suddenly, as science, the enlightenment, and the renaissance came into fore, all these miraculous accounts have dwindled a whole lot.

Now, as to miracles - -these are events where the supernatural are deemed the causes for the event. Now, if science has no explanation for it NOW, it doesn't mean that the cause is the supernatural. Just because there is no explanation now doesn't mean that in the future, science won't have an explanation.

So for example - -cancer. Some people get cured of cancer. Medicine and science can't explain them. So people will say - -wow - -the cancer was cured by prayers, god, etc. Now, I am happy for people who get cured - regardless of what they think is the cause. However, just because science/medicine cannot explain the cure now doesn't mean that for sure, the cure is due to the supernatural. In time, I am sure science/medicine will find an explanation and at the same time, hopefully - - - - find a cure/prevention.

It's funny how some people pooh-pooh science. However, when they get sick - -the first thing they think of doing is go to a doctor - -who practices science/medicine and not some voodoo or spiritual healing.

I hope I am making sense to people out there who are willing to take risks and test the certainties that they have held all their lives.

Gregory said...

I admit I’m doing my obligations to the barest minimum primarily out of fear.
***********

Well, I won't hit you for that. However, it really is better to do things not because of fear but because of conviction and reason.

Just think of this - - -would you like your kids to follow you because they are scared of you - - -even if they are already 45 and you are say - - -70 years old. I am sure you want to have independent children who can think for themselves, follow your advice as much as possible, but if they decide to do things different from your ways - that they do it because of their experiences/knowledge/reasoning. How will kids ever grow up if they keep doing things out of fear.


Again, to those who are searching:

Do you really want to do things because of fear? Do you want to live your life thinking that someone is watching over you every second.

Man - -that is one big guilt trip.

Do good and live a good decent life. But let go of the fear and the police state mentality.

If there's a god who keeps watching me, I suggest that he stops wasting his time watching me and instead use his powers to get rid of poverty, disease, malnutrition, etc.

Gregory said...

Pian - -I also suggest that you check out videos from TED. These are talks from people of different disciplines. They open horizons and tickle the brain.

There's diversity in the world. I hope you are not stuck in the paradigm of the religious. Your life will be totally enriched if you open yourself not just to the knowledge of your religion but to the wonders and riches of philosophy, science, ethics, literature, history, etc. etc.

Onwards, reason - - march on!!!

Check out section on:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/
themes

http://www.ted.com/index.php/


a. evolution's genius

b. how the mind works

c. Is there a god?

d. Inspired by nature.

Wow - -as I write, I realized that there's so much knowledge and information out there that is now accessible by so many people.

In the past, we couldn't even engage in this kind of dialog and discussion.

As more people read, watch, listen- - they will learn more. And really, knowledge is the key to freeing us from all our superstitions and mythological clingings.

Gregory said...

To everyone out there - to help enrich the discussion:

1. Debate featuring Christopher Hitchens author of God is not Great vs. the
Reverand Al Sharpton

http://www.veoh.com/videos/
v590132mxFB8648

2. Another interesting one (1st and 2nd videos at least):



Debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges on god and religion



http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/
item/20070617_religion_politics
_and_the_end_of_the_world/


*There is so much diversity of views in the US and so much openness and willingness to dialog, discuss, and debate. Pity if the only view we have is the religious point of view.

The internet is so wonderful, broadband in particular, because now, people can not only read about, but actually watch or listen to debates, discussions, etc.

Gregory said...

Pian - -something to get you started - -

The first chapter of The God Delusion

If you refuse to read it, then I guess I can't do anything about that. However, if you really want to defend your position - it is wise to know thy enemy.

http://richarddawkins.net/
godDelusion#firstChapter

To the rest - -read it. And you will see that those who do not believe in god are not evil or not the incarnation of the devil.

And you will see that a lot of what dawkins says makes sense.

Gregory said...

Pian:

Let's say a baby fell off a 10 story building, bounces off the lawn, and survives with just a slight bruise - you will say, wow, that's a miracle and God saved this baby from inevitable death.

Now, let's say a baby fell off his chair which is 2-3 feet off the ground, hits his head on the floor, cracks it, and then dies. This time, you will likely say - -how sad, it was a terrible, unfortunate accident - a case of bad luck, perhaps. And then perhaps try to find the reason - who's fault was it - was the baby strapped to the chair, did the chair fall, were the parent's not watching the child or did the child simply remove the belt and fall off.

And I'll bet you - if in that earlier situation, the baby did survive, you would again attribute it to a miracle.

And if you say - wow - God and his angels looked after the baby and protected him/her. So what happens now to the baby who died? It will probably be in human to say to the parents that god and the angels forgot to save their kid or that god has a reason for taking this innocent baby. So you will say - well - ganyan talaga, the baby removed the belt and so there was a chance that such unfortunate thing would happen.

Amazing isn't it.

For unexplainable things - the default answer is a supernatural explanation.

But for things we know - we give a non supernatural answer.

So shouldn't our attitude be - try to learn more about our world - rather than jump to conclusions. Just because we don't know now shouldn't stop us from wanting to know.

(my examples above are merely given to make a point. And not given to actually be answered. :-) )

Gregory said...

Google videos on evolution by Carl Sagan:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?
docid=-522726029201501667&q=Cosmos

lurker2007 said...

gregory, do you really feel it's necessary to explain God in "human" terms? Wouldn't that be like teaching calculus to an infant?

Gregory said...

No. If there's anyone who is describing god in human terms - it is people of "faith" who believes in deities.

God is an idea, a concept made by man. Thus, man can only explain him in human terms. All non-human explanations (which is supposed to account for all the rest of god), man simply says - it's a mystery.

Even an infant grows up. So rather than remain an infant and forever be wowed with calculus because it will forever boggle the mind of an infant, might as well grow up and see calculus for what it's worth. Just like calculus, god is an idea made by man.

lurker2007 said...

Just because man cannot explain does not prove that God cannot exist. Man cannot possibly comprehend God.

Going back to my "calculus" analogy to grow up, would be akin to achieving "god-hood", which could never be the case.

Gregory said...

Just because man cannot explain does not prove that God cannot exist.

*How can you even begin to prove something that does not even exist but in the mind. It is human consciousness that allows us to think about all these things. Call our lives a brief spark of consciousness. Once gone, forever gone. It will never be able to fully explain zeus, thor, ra, the unicorn, the fairies, etc. Nor will I be able to prove them. Just because I can't prove them doesn't mean that therefore, they have the possibility of existence.

Think of ALL the gods of human history. All of them have been debunked by man except the god that one has been taught to believe in. If you were brought up in the Christian tradition, you believe in Jesus - that he is god. All you don't believe in all the rest. Another would believe in another one but not all others. Atheists just went one god further. :-)


*****************************


Going back to my "calculus" analogy to grow up, would be akin to achieving "god-hood", which could never be the case.

*Man has already become one in a sense. From a metaphysical standpoint (and again, I would say metaphysics is really mythology), by creating evil/sin or the conditions of sin, man made the existence of god possible. For without such concept of evil/sin, why even need an all good god who would save one from such evil/sin. Unless of course you believe that sin came in the form of an apple that was picked up from a tree and there was really a serpent that tempted man to eat and pick the apple.

Gregory said...

So many miracles in the "past." If man contented himself with a supernatural explanation and just attribute them to god, man would still be in the dark ages. But many people, including men of faith, opened their minds to science and the values of the enlightenment. We've certainly come a long way from those times. Let's continue to evolve, to understand more about our world and nature, and continue to know what we can know. As we know more, certainly, man's fascination with things supernatural and his/her inclination to be superstitious will slowly disappear.

Gregory said...

Just a thought:

I have been taught to reconcile creation with evolution in school. My teacher/professor told us that the two are compatible. God, created the world and he did this through evolution. Neat answer right. So I thought. And I have always seen things that way and never questioned.
It seemed logical, correct, and defensible from a theological standpoint.

But then, I decided to question that. And I pushed the thought and see how far it can go. Then, I realized, there are problematic gaps.

If creation was done via evolution (and so as christians will say - god continues to create this world), then, god surely "started" a process that he was not in control of.

For if he was in control of the process, how could he have allowed the evolution of:

a. problematic genes - e.g., the genes responsible for certain diseases.

b. how could he have allowed the formation of catastrophes that up to this day bring death, pain, and suffering to many people (e.g., destructive volcano eruptions, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, etc.)

c. Why allow germs and bacteria and viruses to evolve which are responsible for a lot of death, pain, suffering throughout human history.

Think of it - a god who supposedly created things through evolution certain made possible that conditions that now cause a lot of pain and suffering to humanity in this lifetime.

And if you want to cling to old certainties, rely on the tried and tested answer: We can really never know. It is a mystery. Sigh.

Gregory said...

Defenders will say -

God does not need man to exist. God is alpha and omega. He is past, present, future, etc.

Sure. That's because the concept created of god is one of perpetuity. So sure - one can say god does not need man to exist.

But from the standpoint of salvation, will man even need a god for salvation without evil/sin. Salvation means saving us from our sinfulness. But it is man that created sinfulness. So in a sense, it is man that "made" god useful. If man made the conditions of god's existence necessary - then we know now who is the real creator.

Instead, what I have been taught is that man needs god in order to be saved from his sins. And I am given explanations that god does not need man. But god loves man so much, that he is willing to involve himself in human affairs and save us from our sin. Again, cool ideas.

But when you think of it - without man who is conscious of a "god" - who would even know that he existed. Don't you think that's pretty vain - create someone so that one can be recognized and worshiped. It is man's existence that makes the idea of god possible really. Monkeys don't have a god - they don't worship one based on our observations.

So, only man really can worship. That's because it is man that created the conditions of worship by creating the idea of a deity.

And to go back to the original thought - -who created the conditions of sin. No one in his sane theological mind will say god created sin/evil. If so, then it has to be man, right. So man made it necessary to be "saved." By creating the conditions necessary for salvation, man made the idea of a deity responsible for salvation possible.

If on the other hand one claims evil existed prior to man and that god didn't create evil, then - you surely can have something independent of god. Isn't that interesting.

If on the other hand one claims god created evil, then wow- - - - what a theological nightmare that would be.

Think, think, think friends.

Do not accept the certainties handed down to us.

Let's not use these certainties for purposes of defense before actually thinking hard about them and testing them for reasonable validity.

Let's not be content with answers such as - accept in faith or we can not know certain mysteries, etc.

Such thoughts are anathema to critical thinking, inquiry, reason.

Let's push the envelope and start thinking and also listening to the other great body of knowledge outside the body of knowledge offered by own religion. There is a world out there - a great one. The future really is promising in terms of sharing and collaborating to push man's knowledge frontier further.

Gregory said...

In other words, if god's job description was: savior of man from his sins, I can come up with only one conclusion - man gave god his job by creating sin/conditions of sin.

Gregory said...

"Man cannot possibly comprehend God."

******************

That's cool if we left it that way. But just as we cannot comprehend him, we also claim we can read his mind on so many other things.

And we also live our lives and build our lives around him based on our human descriptions of him. For example, we believe he watches us, 100% a day - can read our thoughts, can see all that we do, etc.

Wow - if we created a world like that, that would be hell (not heaven). That's complete invasion of privacy and a police state.

So again, do we comprehend god? Sure we do. Man certainly has built an entire society/civilization on what it "comprehends" about god.

While people claim it is god that "revealed" things and made such comprehension possible, I would say , no - man created all these things again.

If there was one revelation, then why have different concepts of god. Does that mean that one revelation is correct and the other revelation wrong? Or can we safely assume that god wanted to confuse all of us? :-)

Oh please. Not the "it's a mystery" defense again. I can see that coming 7 billion light years away.

Gregory said...

You mentioned earlier - why use human terms to describe god.

*****************************

Well, if we were created in his image, surely, our idea of him would be based on what we see in man.

And, if we are to create the conditions of "heaven" here on earth (i.e., build his kingdom here on earth), then I suppose our idea of what a society is suppose to be is our idea of what heaven should represent. If that's the case, do we want a state that watches us 100% of the time, determines everything that happens in our private lives, and can read our mind. I am sure you're gonna say - no way. Then why do we want a deity who does the same thing?

Gregory said...

When we accept that the earth's core is in the evolutionary phase of cooling, and therefore, we have all these natural events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc., then we will not to have to ask the question "Why" when strategy strikes.

We become more accepting of human tragedy.

This is not to say that we remain there.

We overcome that tragedy through remembrance, support, etc.

In other words, man, being capable of creating meaning, makes the tragedies less painful to bear while acknowledging that he has no control over certain destructive forces of nature.

If that's the case - do we even have to ask the question: Why?

No. We don't.

(Note - I am not saying that Why? as a question is unimportant. In certain cases, it is unnecessary. But in our own personal lives, constantly asking why is a necessary element in order for us to create meaning. But meaning is not something floating in the air to be discovered. So when we ask why - the purpose is not to discover a meaning out there. Rather, the question why should prompt us instead to create meaning. In other words, we are pro-active rather than reactive).

pian said...

TO GREGORY
To answer your questions:
We’re on earth, not in heaven.
Miracles are meant to be rare. In the meantime, we were created in the image and likeness of God. We have the necessary faculties to be caretakers of mother earth. Otherwise, what’s the point of all these faculties?
Evolution does not prove that we didn’t come from God.

Gregory said...

Miracles are meant to be rare.

*They don't seem to be rare during the pre-scientific, pre-renaissance, pre-enlightenment time. In fact, you hear all these stories of miracles and the supernatural.

**************************

Evolution explains how things came to be. But if one thinks carefully about evolution, it causes a lot of cracks on theoretical/theological/metaphysical arguments for god's existence (e.g., argument from design, the whole concept of evil, etc.).

Anyway, that's what I mean - -let go of the certainties first and explore. It seems what you are doing is finding ways to defend.

*******************

So question - what is heaven then? A place or state of mind. If Jesus was the only one who has seen the place and came back, what then does the bible say about heaven. Please enlighten me.

I heard many people say - they don't know. But there is someone who has seen heaven - supposedly right. That is jesus. So we should have a clear cut answer then right?

So enlighten me -what is heaven.

You answer will be an interesting one.

*******************

We were created in the image and likeness of God. We have the necessary faculties to be caretakers of mother earth. Otherwise, what’s the point of all these faculties?

*Just because I don't subscribe to that view doesn't mean that I will now destroy the earth and not take care of it. In other words, what makes man act morally is reason. Morality is nothing more than evolved ethics/behavior.

Even before the bible was written, man was already doing good deeds. So we don't have to know we were created in god's image and likeness because acts of kindness can be done.

Unless of course, you subscribe to the belief that the bible is the source of all morality.

Gregory said...

Did you know that the bonobo monkeys are capable of showing many of the ethical behaviors of man. In fact, such discoveries are showing that man's ethical/moral sense was part of evolution.

Man - it's such a pity that in people's desire to hold on to certainties they've known all their lives, they close their eyes the wonderful new things that science, etc. is discovering everyday.

Again - my friends - -in the words of the discovery channel - explore your world. There's a world out there. Embrace it for all its diversity. Enrich yourself with the knowledge of the world. And do not lock yourself and view the world in only one paradigm. In the end, there's only one life that matters- this life. Stop worrying about a second chance. When you know you have only one life, the urgency is greater to live it to the fullest, best, way possible.

So contrary to the belief that non-belief in the afterlife will make you do anything as you please on earth (disregard morality), the idea that this is the only life we've got will make you instead lead the most decent, good life you can live.

Carpe diem, friends. And don't ever get stuck with one paradigm.

lurker2007 said...

What is a billion years or 7 or 15 billion years for that matter if you have an eternity?

I feel your desire to explain everything in human terms is "wanting", imho.

lurker2007 said...

gregory says: "So is heaven a place or a state of mind?"

Again, you are thinking in "human terms" in looking for a "physical" heaven. We don't know because we haven't been there, just as we do not know what was there before the Big Bang, and yet you are convinced of the latter? It's a mystery too, isn't it?

lurker2007 said...

BTW, yes, I am a big fan of Discovery Channel and National Geographic too, and the more I watch, the more I admire the greatness of God.

Gregory said...

Jesus died right. Then rose from the dead.

That's suppose to be a super big event.

So why don't we know what happens after death.

If the bible writers wanted to right something important, that one of of the things to right. Why miss that completely.

So my question is: What does the bible say is heaven like?

Let me know what it says Lurker2007.

Gregory said...

That's one of the things to write about. (I mean)

Gregory said...

Oh BTW Lurker2007, try to also get those PBS shows about evolution, etc.

Gregory said...

What is a billion years or 7 or 15 billion years for that matter if you have an eternity?

*****************

You are used to concepts of time as a line (time line). And so you think of eternity.

Have you read the string theory and the theory of relativity (about time).

Anyway, science is still discovering new things. There might actually be no such thing as "eternity."

You are stuck with paradigms. Science continues to push. And what they are discovering or investigating are simply amazing.

Gregory said...

Explanations can only be human explanations. Because only humans can do the explaining.

As to the unexplainable, either:

1. It's imagined. Does not exist. And is invented by man.

or

2. Just because it's unexplainable now, does not mean it will remain unexplainable. In other words, imagine what there is still to know. The unknown becomes known.

Gregory said...

Whatever the bible says about heaven can't be considered "incomplete." Because if Jesus is the source of what heaven is, then surely, he has to know what it is right.

If he doesn't say anything - isn't that strange. Here's someone who came back from the dead and no body bothered to asked what it was like. That's probably the first thing one would ask.

So Lurker2007, let me know the answer. Would love to hear your answer.

lurker2007 said...

I would not pretend to be all knowing about the bible, but I believe the best description "in human terms" in the bible was "paradise". I mean how else could he describe it other than that? Surely you're not expecting physical directions on how to go there are you? Of course any description would have to be something that people from that time period would most understand.

Surely you can't be expecting a 21st century explanation from a 1st century writer?

Gregory said...

Surely you can't be expecting a 21st century explanation from a 1st century writer?

*********************

Wow. Your answer says it all.

Christianity believed for the longest time that heaven was a place. Until science showed the absurdity of the belief. So that idea was abandoned, and now, the common belief is that it is a state of mind.

Exactly. Why base your entire life on the writings of people born 2000 or more years ago.

And that was an easy way out. Sure- you don't know the bible. But if you are living your entire life on the basis of an afterlife, it sure would help if you at least knew what the only person (Jesus) who has been to the afterlife and died said about it. If one has hours to spend sleeping, I am sure a little research from a believer would be beneficial to other believers.

And that's the whole point. If there's nothing in the Bible about what Jesus actually said about how the afterlife is, isn't that really super strange. Such a glaring omission.

It's like someone going to the Jupiter, making it back to earth, and all these media people and historians fail to ask the astronaut who went to Jupiter how it was to be there and what was Jupiter like.

It really boggles the mind - -such omission.

Anyway - to the discerning readers - -continue pushing the envelope. You will see that if you only let go of your certainties, you will come to see things in a new light.

And if in fact Jesus did say something about heaven - shouldn't we take his word for it.

So again, for the sake of enlightening the readers:

What did the only person (Jesus) who has been to the afterlife say about how it was to be in the afterlife?

Gregory said...

Of course any description would have to be something that people from that time period would most understand.

*****************

Wow. Another very telling response.

I won't elaborate.

But I am sure the reasonable and thinking people out there will know exactly what I mean. :-)

Gregory said...

Honestly, the only description of the afterlife worth believing is the description of someone who has been to the afterlife.

That is why - only an answer from Jesus will suffice.

So does Jesus have something to say about the afterlife (how it is)? And I am not saying what the bible has to say - but what jesus has to say.

If the bible can attribute words to Jesus like: Love they neighbor or all these other things that is supposed to have said, what I want to know is what HE SAID about the afterlife.

That's a simple question.

So again, did he say anything or not?

Just a no, if it's no.

Or if yes, what did he say.

pian said...

TO GREGORY
How can I not be defensive if you keep on your attacks?
Heaven is definitely the opposite of Hell where nobody wants to go.

lurker2007 said...

Like I said, I believe that Jesus said that Heaven = Paradise. How else could you be more descriptive than that? The Bible was not supposed to be a scientific treatise you know (despite what some fundamentalists may be claiming).

Gregory said...

Is critical thinking and asking questions considered attacking.

In science, nothing is sacred. They welcome questions, statements to test the idea and do not consider it attacking. Because science values that the truth come out.

So all I am doing is asking - and pushing the envelope. I am seeking answers.

The problem sometimes with having a religious paradigm is that you consider your truths "holy." And when you consider your beliefs holy, questions/or inquiries to probe deeper are often considered attacks, blasphemies, etc.

So again, it seems there is a paradigm problem here. All I am doing in pushing the envelope - -and in a sense, being a devil's advocate (pardon the pun).

To my friends who would like to understand, fear not questions. Because if questions or inquiries that push the envelope will help you clarify your thoughts or help you revise your "certainties", then you should rejoice because in such situations, reason and truth are served.

The scientific method does not fear questions that undermine held beliefs. Because it is only through such questioning and tests that a clearer understanding is achieved.

Gregory said...

So you believe Jesus said heaven = paradise.

Considering that you are basing your entire life on the belief that there is an afterlife, it sure would be helpful if instead of thinking what you believe jesus said, you might as well check for yourself what Jesus said (if he really say something).

Unsolicited advice from someone who is used to researching and use to mining data. :-)

Gregory said...

It's amazing how my questions are not being answered directly considering that you have the bible to use as source. Sure, you're not a fundamentalist.

But before you can even believe something, you must have a starting point. And what better starting point but the bible (for a christian such as yourself).

If you say it's not there and you simply believe, then I'll take that as an answer. But it's good to check your sources first before even believing in something.

Interesting to see the thought processes of people. :-)

Anonymous said...

....friend Gregory....once and for all, make a conclusion for yourself. You are very bright and young. Actuarially the average man lives to be 66.....66years is a short time to search for the answer you are looking for. Searching thru Reason can go only so far as your age and mental faculties will allow. Faith may also be considered belief or a conclusion...many say it is a gift.

Gregory said...

Dear anonymous -

I am sure you know that it is not Ithaka but the journey to Ithaka that really matters.

So the continuous desire of one to discover and the process of discovering - and savoring those discoveries (and these include personal/self, intellectual, cultural, etc. or knowing about discoveries of others), all with the knowledge that one can never know everything, is what matters.

The knowledge of one that everything will not be known to him/her in his/her one and only life does not one bit diminish the journey.

And one more thing. 66 or 15, or 100 for that matter are irrelevant.
There's a saying: Time means the most when you live each day like it's your last. But another way of looking at this is that time means the most when it is lived the way we all live it - none of us knowing how much of it we have. (from PBS Frontline documentary entitled "So Much So Fast").

Again - to those who take my critical thinking as attacks - who said that your certainties are untouchables to begin with. Again - - I am not attacking. You can immediately distinguish men of reason/science. They do not see any questioning of their findings as attacks but part of the process of ferreting out the truth. That's how scientists, etc. determine hierarchy of ideas - those that are tested, questioned by peers, etc.

People of faith on the other hand often think that their beliefs are sacred. When questioned, they think they are being attacked. Truth is - even religious ideas can be questioned and tested by men of reason. Again my friends - there is no such thing as sacred or untouchable or holy.

So don't be offended - because in the "market of ideas", you should be open to all ideas that compete with yours.

Gregory said...

To my friends out there who are discerning and who may have thought before that people who do not believe in a deity are devil, immoral or amoral, or cannot live worthy, decent, lives - -I hope through my answers, you can see that I am still a decent person who tries to live a good life.

How wonderful this tool called the Internet. It helps break down stereotypes, scare tactics, etc.

So don't be scared to search. You will not lose your soul in the process. :-)

Gregory said...

Something again to think about:

When the bible talks about Jesus' ascension, it refers to the bodily ascension into heaven in the presence of his apostles, forty days following his resurrection.

So this is supposed to be an eyewitness account.

But there's one big problem. This was suppose to be fact right. As seen by witnesses.

Now after hundreds and hundreds of years, man, through men of reason and science has made the idea of heaven as a place "up there" absurd. Man has shown that was is up there is not heaven but the atmosphere, space, etc. In fact, who would have thought then that man would be able to fly or go to outer space.

Now, if this is the case then, how do reconcile these two things:

a. The fact that Jesus ascended (go up to) heaven bodily to join the father. And, if the writers are to be believed, there were witnesses.

&

b. The latter discovery that heaven is not a place up above.

Someone who refuses to see this inconsistency will say "I accept in faith, I will not question." But someone who is using his/her brain will likely come up with one big, plausible explanation: The writers of the bible, being pre-renaissance, pre-enlightenment, and pre-science writers, wrote a lot of supernatural stuff based on the limited knowledge at that time. Thus, when they say Jesus ascended, they do so with their limited understanding about what was up in the sky. Since they had no way of knowing, they assumed it was heaven.

And so, when they "made up" this story, they said Jesus ascended to heaven.

What they didn't anticipate is that men of later years (a long time coming) would actually know what was up there. Not heaven but the stars, the atmosphere, space, etc.

So, if this fact really happen (it now becomes dubious right?), then Jesus ascended to the sky/atmosphere/space. To join who? :-)

Again - -push the envelope. Question. And think. Do not be scared to question the "certainties." Because things that we think are "certain" are really fragile illusions. :-)

Anonymous said...

Erich von Daniken would say he did "go up", in a spaceship that is, and the Jesus was an alien :)

Gregory said...

Jesus in a spaceship going up and an alien is the 21st century version of jesus ascending to heaven as a god. :-)

It's all mythology!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

From Merriam-Webster:

(1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof

Gregory said...

Mark:

19So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

Luke:

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.


Acts:

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.


Ephesians:

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

**********************

Okay. So jesus goes up and stays there.

If you take this literally, it may have made sense to the "creative" writers of the bible, what is absurd today.

Now, if you take the opposite view and say the writers were being "metaphorical" and interpretation must be in the figurative, then what do you make of the Apostles creed:

"One the 3rd day he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father."

Plus, if the ascension is now figurative, didn't we cherry pick again.

What I mean here is - why do we now say that the ascension is figurative and then say that the resurrection for example is not figurative but should be taken as fact.

So again, is the ascension to be taken literally (up into heaven) or figuratively?


To many people of faith - they will say - -ah, we can never know the mysteries of god. We accept in faith the things we cannot completely know.

But to those who will think - I am sure you are now seeing a lot of unbelievable inconsistencies and problems. Honestly, the inconsistencies happen because if you really think about it - -the inventors of fiction can only get away with the fiction if everyone else suspends reality and engage in fantasy. That's what's happening here. Unfortunately, what is fiction has become non-fiction to many.

I know - -the "taking the red pill" process is painful. But continue to push the envelope. Think. Question the certainties.

And to those who are scared to think about the inconsistencies - again - do not worry. You will not lose your souls. And you can still be all the things you are now (i.e., a good person, a decent human being, compassionate, etc.) if certain certainties are being shattered. But yes, it can be very unsettling at first.

Gregory said...

And as previously posted, that whole heaven thing is connected with my post on the Assumption of Mary to heaven, which is a dogma where the pope invoked papal infallibility.

That's what you call a bad call. Because a "mistake" such as that one puts into question even the papal infallibility dogma now.

I tell you, when you think about it - it's a house of cards. Sure, 2000 years and counting.

But measured against 7.5 or more billion years, that's not a pretty long run.

Gregory said...

Oh - another thing:

In the Apostles' creed:

I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

***********************

We see the term "heaven" again. So - what did he create - - - a heaven (as in the sky, space, etc.) or a heaven (that is a place where good people go) or a heaven (that is a state of mind where god is perpetually present).

Whatever interpretation you make, the same absurd conclusions are reached when you think of the ascension and the assumption.

Gregory said...

Seriously, if not for science, man would still be stuck with this absurd notion that heaven is a place up there.

Science, reason - the quest for knowledge, continuous innovation, curiosity, disdain for the status quo - -these are forces that drive us to move forward.

Contrast this to the idea not to question and just accept the mysteries as simply unknowable.

Then you would see 2 divergent views when it comes to the quest for knowledge.

And lest things get sidetracked and comments instead focus on this particular post, I would like comments to at least address the issue of the ascension and the assumption.

Again, if there is to be an enlightening discussion, it would be good to hear a side/explanation of the belief in the ascension and assumption different from what I had mentioned here today.

Gregory said...

I took the liberty to check Catholic Catechism. It sure brought back a lot of memories. Anyway, here are some things regarding sin:

Human History and the Fall (390)

Although using figurative language, the story of Adam's sin does describe an event which took place at the beginning of human history. All human history is marked by that fall of our first parents.
A Prior Fall - Satan (391)

Man's fall contains a "seductive voice," the voice of a fallen angel called "Satan" or the "devil." The Church teaches that Satan and other demons were created "good by God but they became evil by their own doing" (Fourth Lateran Council).

***********************


Well, aside from sounding like a mythological tale, with fallen angels, the devil, or Satan.

Again, our whole need for Jesus or god or salvation is premised on the fact that we have fallen or that we have sinned.

In other words, without this sin, why even need salvation.

The original state we were in was this situation where all we did was praise god and know nothing else (like the way north koreans praise their spiritual leader Kim Jong Il).


Man therefore through the fallen angels (haha - -it almost sounds silly), created the conditions that made salvation necessary.

Again - -it is salvation from sin. Without sin, there's no need for salvation and no need for christ. Man made that all possible. Thanks to man, god now has a role to play in history.

******************

I suggest that you revisit your catechism. You'll be amazed at all these supernatural things or mythological beings that all spring up in the text.

To those searching and feeling skeptical, reading the text will make you even more skeptical. You'll be amazed at the things written in it.

Gregory said...

Oh - -and really, everyone thought, it seems, that heaven is up there because here's what catechism says about eventual resurrection of our bodies (that is our body will be reunited with our souls):

At the End of Time (1001)

This will happen at "the end of the world" (the Last Day) because this resurrection is associated with Christ's Second Coming. "The Lord himself will descend from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Thess 4:16).

Gregory said...

Always a Virgin (499-501)

In giving birth, Mary's real and perpetual virginity was not diminished but was sanctified (Second Vatican Council).

Sometimes the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always seen these "brothers and sisters" as not being other children of Mary. In fact, Matthew speaks of "his brothers James, Joseph" who are actually the sons of "the other Mary" (13:55, 28:1).

*********************

Boy, if this was really the case, Joseph must have gone crazy. :-) So he couldn't have sex with his wife.

But he couldn't commit adultery likewise because that's a sin too.

And if Church teaching is to be believe, he couldn't self-indulge because that would also be a sin.

Poor Joseph -- if he was to avoid committing the sin of the flesh - he had to content himself with nocturnal emissions.

Anonymous said...

I believe that there is likely a god, but I don't believe in the selfish, insecure god of religion, much less religion itself. Why do we have to go to church every Sunday and listen to the gospel, for the rest of our lives? We have heard it over and over growing up, and if we still don't get it by now, what's the point of listening to it again this coming Sunday?

It is our fear of suffering and death, and desire for immortality which is a product of our instinct to survive, that make us force ourselves to believe in things that actually do not make sense, have no evidence for, and require blind acceptance otherwise very nicely called "faith". In the meantime politicians continue stealing the people's money and what has the Church really done about it? How many priests have gone to jail speaking against the crimes of government? I have not gone to jail myself, but would not make promises based on "faith" to my countrymen, allowing them to just accept the fact that their children cannot get adequate health care and education, because god loves them anyway. Pray first, think later and maybe not even think at all, that's what happens to the religious masses doesn't it?

Gregory said...

I was watching Ratatouille and there's a nice line there:

Father rat to Remy:

This is the way things are. You can't change nature.


Remy to father:

Change is nature.


Father to Remy:

So where are you going?


Remy to Father:

With luck . . .FORWARD.


Reminds me of how one can view evolution and nature.

jolens said...

Gregory,

I admire you for the strength of your convictions. Though I do not necessarily agree with you, your desire to seek knowledge/information is impressive.

Yes, I do not subscribe to your position, though I have no desire to engage in a debate with you nor do I wish to try to "win you over". I do, however wish to point out that your remark regarding St. Joseph, for one may be interpreted as offensive if not insulting to some of the faithful. Try writing something similar against Mohammed for example in some Islamic forum (if any exists), and I'm sure you'll know what I mean).

Like I said, I do not wish to be dragged into a debate here, however, I do wish that some measure of respect be kept.

Goodluck in your search for the truth.

Thanks!

Gregory said...

I am sorry if I offended some with my remarks. Know though that offense was not meant.

If truth is indeed to be sought out, we must disengage ourselves with the thought that the matter which is being subjected to discussion deserves "respect" because it is holy to begin with.

Again, science, etc. never makes those presumptions about itself and therefore, takes with ease any discussion attempting to show inconsistencies, lack of logic, gaps, etc.

In this case, my comment about Joseph was merely to illustrate the absurdity of the belief of Mary's perpetual (physical) virginity. If I am not allowed to show the lack of logic or even the consistency of such a belief by stating the consequences with respect to Joseph, then how can the truth even be advanced?

Again, truth should be advanced without fear or favor.

I will respect you or anyone in this blog by not calling you names, etc. or going to the level of mudslinging. As you can see, I have stuck to the level of ideas. Not once did I call anyone a derogatory term or go to the level of personal attacks. My attacks are all with respect to the beliefs/ideas.

Again, I will not fear spelling out problems with respect to the belief

I noticed the big hangups of many christians with respect to the issue of sex and sexuality. I merely stated the consequences of the belief without being vulgar.

Men of reason, regardless of their beliefs, I hope will appreciate that I did not go to the level of bad taste or vulgarity. But part of the discussion though was about Mary's virginity. And if I had to point out the consequences of that belief with respect to Joseph (and therefore spell what it meant with respect to marital intercourse or how a married man is suppose to handle is sexual urges), then so be it.

You cannot hoist belief regarding virginity without expecting a discussion on sex and marital obligations regarding sex. If I raised them - -then so be it. I didn't raise the issue of virginity in the first place. :-)

Gregory said...

And when I use the word "attack" - I simply meant that I am providing a point of view that is not in harmony with the view meant to be examined.

Gregory said...

I think we probably made a record with respect to no. of comments and length of comments for this particular blog post.

Well, this soon will disappear from the front page of Martin's blog. :-)

Gregory said...

Vatican: Non-Catholics 'wounded'by not recognizing pope

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- The Vatican on Tuesday said Christian denominations outside the Roman Catholic Church were not full churches of Jesus Christ.
art.pope2.gi.jpg

The Vatican said other churches are "wounded" since they do not recognize the primacy of the pope.

A 16-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict used to head, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.

But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in the Protestant denominations -- a view likely to further complicate relations with Protestants.

"Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress ... it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them," it said.

The Vatican text, which restates the controversial document "Dominus Iesus" issued by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2000, said the Church wanted to stress this point because some Catholic theologians continued to misunderstand it.

Ratzinger was elected Pope in April 2005. The document is his second strong reaffirmation of Catholic tradition in four days, following a decree on Saturday restoring the old Latin Mass alongside the modern liturgy.

The document stressed that dialogue with other Christians remained "one of the priorities of the Catholic Church."

The document, issued by Benedict's successor in doctrinal matters, Cardinal William Levada, complemented the Latin Mass decree in aiming to correct what it called "erroneous or ambiguous" interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962 to 1965.

Church modernizers interpreted the Council as a break from the past while conservatives, like Benedict, see it in continuity with 2,000 years of Catholic tradition.

The document said the Council's opening to other faiths recognized there were "many elements of sanctification and truth" in other Christian denominations, but stressed only Catholicism had all the elements to be Christ's Church fully.

The text refers to "ecclesial communities originating from the Reformation," a term used to refer to Protestants and Anglicans. Father Augustine Di Noia, under-secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the document did not alter the commitment for ecumenical dialogue, but aimed to assert Catholic identity in those talks.

"The Church is not backtracking on ecumenical commitment," Di Noia told Vatican radio.

"But, as you know, it is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that the participants are clear about their own identity. That is, dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what you actually understand yourself to be."

Anonymous said...

gregory: I'm wondering why you keep referring to God as a "human-like" being?