Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Are you not an 'apologist'? (Score 1) 747

I'm pretty sure its not possible to know for certain whether RMS was using 'apologist' as a perjorative. I think its fair play to identify people who defend ideas that are in opposition to your own. In this context, its even relevant because mono runs upon a system protected by the 'freedom' that RMS supports.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

Alright, I'll try to be gentle, here...


Would the same apply to your faith? That is, faith makes you happy only as long as it lasts, but it just lasts longer?

Of course, that's part of it. Not the only part.

I eventually found a few arguments -- mostly biblical quotes, and the argument from evil -- to draw the conclusion that even if a god exists, it would be the kind of being I probably wouldn't want to worship. At the very least, if a god revealed itself to me, I would have a lot of questions for it.

Assume God is not all powerful or all good, then the answers would be mundane (God either didn't have the power or the will to behave as you expect). Assume that God is both all powerful and all good, then the questions are much more difficult and the answers are much more interesting.

From what I've read from you so far, I'm thinking that if you can be convinced that God is all powerful and all good, then he would be the kind of God you would want to worship. I agree: I would not want to worship a God that was not all powerful or not all good.

Hope... that things will work out for the best, that we're on a path that makes sense, that things we do are right, and have meaning...

Are any of those resonating?

Since people are subject to passions and impulses, I don't have the same hope in man as I do in God. I no longer question whether what I do or who I am has meaning.

I find that I do have hope. The universe, as it is -- without acknowledging or rejecting a supernatural claim, but just looking at the natural universe -- it's unimaginably beautiful. And the way in which we experience, explore, and learn about this universe is inspiring. I don't know if I can put it better than this video -- and I think you'll enjoy it, again, believer or not. I know it sends chills down my spine.

And it may give you some insight into, not why I don't believe, but why I don't need to.

Yes. The universe is (I'm without word) ...awesome?, beautiful? with endless possibilities. And man's advances, not only over the last 100 years, but in all ages, inspiring. Courage, insight, strength, imagination, will to survive. And man's product not just in science but in fine art and the liberal arts. Amazing. Please don't think I'm mocking, I am not. I give a full-throated: "Amen!".

I come away with this understanding about you, I am not trying to put words into you mouth, I'm echoing back only what I think I hear. I think you are saying that the possibility of endless discoveries and the apparently uncapped capability of man to discover them is enough to satisfy your deepest longings.

Not to diminish your experience, but that was another reason I showed that video to you -- there are powerful experiences like this, I could even call them religious experiences, but they aren't necessarily tied to a god.

I would also suggest that your experience is the root of your belief, not the other way around -- that on a very basic level, the message of most religion came out of similar experiences.

And I do mean, not to diminish your experience -- I am not trying to say it's insignificant, or that you imagined it. I just have a different interpretation of it.

Thank you for the gracious response.

I would say that in order for humans to experience God at all, humans would need to have developed the capacity to do so. I can accept, without any challenge to my belief in God, a theory that the course of evolution caused that capacity to develop. I can also agree that this capacity to experience God is applicable in our relationship with other realities of existence, such as our shared experience in the awesome expanse of the universe. However, I am not convinced and do not agree that the development of our capacity to believe (or in religious experience) is an accident.

I will, however, say that the human brain is a funny thing, and that it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a spiritual experience and a hallucination.

There is certainly a need to distinguish hallucination from spiritual experience.

Just so.

It's why, when I hear your description of long lasting, deep happiness, I'm confused. Why aren't you simply Deist?

If God does not intervene in the world, how is it possible for me to experience him?

If Jesus wants to come into my life, I'm right here. Again, there'd be plenty of questions, but I'm open to the possibility of meeting him and talking.

What I'm not open to is making the leap of faith before receiving the evidence -- which is pretty much the definition of biased.

Jesus does want to come into your life. He won't barge in without your invitation because he respects you. I think you could agree that some faith would be needed on your part to extend that invitation to Jesus. However, you are not open to making a leap of faith before receiving the evidence. And so, the evidence you desire from a conversation with Jesus would be forever out of reach.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

If given that God is omniscient and we are not, then there would be some questions to which we will not have an answer. You raise some of them. Why didn't God figure out another way to give both mercy and justice? Why does God think it is just to kill his son for the sake of all? Why doesn't God simply snap his fingers to give us all the understanding and wisdom he has? Why must suffering be a source of growth? And how can the horrible death of children in fire and flood have a benefit?

I'd be a liar to say Christianity has the answers.

The Book of Job is about a man who raises many of the same kind of questions and more. In the end, he recognizes that he is not God's peer (by a long shot) in wisdom, knowledge or understanding, but Job continued to have faith.

Personally, I don't think I need to have these answers to believe in God. I don't think I'm in any kind of position second guess God. My lack of understanding of his way doesn't prove that he is not all good, it proves that I am not all knowing.

There are few things I want to adjust, if you don't mind. First, Jesus has two natures, human and divine; he is not just a man. Second, the punishment was not merely death; it was much worse, separation from God.

Finally, I don't want to cop-out on God's alleged control of Pharoh's heart (and likely other alleged contradictions in different sections of scripture). I tried to write out a number of explanations in a number of different ways, but all were unsatisfactory to me.

All I can say, is that the bible is not a history book like we understand history books today. Its not a science book. Its human literature. It was inspired by God but written by human authors (The bible was not dicated.) Its essentially a library of stories, in many different literary forms (allegory, witness, poetry, crises, etc), with books contributed over a period of 1800 years. It is a story of man's relationship with God, and its meant to be read in those terms, with the Holy Spirit guiding and instructing. Its misleading and unproductive to extract tiny pieces of literally interpreted segments without the context of its whole.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

I agree with mostly everything you wrote here and I don't think my disagreement is of consequence to our main discussion.

So, actually, I was inviting anyone to provide me with such a reason. Even if I don't accept that it would be a good reason for me to believe, it would demonstrate that such belief is not completely irrational.

I agree. An argument can be rational without being convincing.

You could start with the reasons you believe.

Well, this is now a personal response, ok? I also want to keep this short and so am leaving out details.

At the early part of my adult life, I did not believe in God. At that time, as now, I wanted to be happy. I tried things that made me happy, but I was happy only for as long as those things lasted.

Then, I saw two things that drew my attention. First, I witnessed my father's faith as he died in hospice. Second, I witnessed the charity of the parish priest who administered to my dad and my family.

I started to deeply investigate the faith I was raised within, Catholic. I also read the arguments for the existence of God. I admit, I wasn't too rigorous here...I didn't read all the objections. Also, some of the reasoning was beyond my ability. As a result, I was only sure there was a possibility of God. Then I read Pascal's Wager, which is not a proof. I saw it as an invitation: given the alternatives Pascal presents AND that I thought there was at least a possiblility that God exists, would I be willing to live my life as if there is God?

After I decided to live my life as if God exists, there were many things I learned and discovered. For example, without belief, I was not aware of the gifts that God was pouring out upon me. One such gift is hope. This is not the hope of getting to heaven, but much bigger and broader. I find it difficult to express in words. Experiencing this hope gives me the happiness that does not go away. A happiness that is not an emotion that has an end, but a deeper, lasting happiness.

One might say that my hope and deeper happiness comes from some psychological, or physiological development in my mind or body. I would agree. However, these changes are correlated to my decision to believe. I do not believe that God manipulated my synapses or anything like that. However, I can say that as a result of deciding to believe in God, I experienced him.

Its in this experience that my uncertainty of God's existence dropped off.

Its this experience I was inviting you into when I said, many, many parents above:

Ask Jesus to come into your life and you will be blown away by His love. The experience is not superstition.

(I still can't understand why it was mod'ed a troll.)

When I thought of superstitions, I thought of rabbit's foot, walking under a ladder, black cat, stepping on the crack, salt over the shoulder kind of baseless rules on how to avoid bad luck for example. I can also understand how religion, without the experience of God, can seem to be merely a ritual or some set of baseless rules on how to avoid hell for example. I don't understand how anyone can expect these to support any long lasting, deep happiness that is not an emotion that ends.

Experience of God is different, much different. If one never takes a step to believe, then the experience will forever be out of reach. Without the experience of God, religion would always appear to be irrational. And I ask again in different words: would you consider to decide to believe in God by asking Jesus to come into your life?

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

So, why are there natural disasters?

Even if we accept that God must allow people to commit evil acts out of respect for "free will" -- which God doesn't seem to respect very much (he hardened Pharaoh's heart, right?) -- why would people die from, say, a lightning strike? Must God respect the lightning's free will?

As far as God's action on Pharoh's heart, it appears that God contradicted himself. However, God does not contradict himself, and so there is something else going on that is invisible to the literal interpretation of scripture. I hope you won't mind if I leave it at that, for now, to avoid having too many balls in the air?

So, I think the question of natural disasters is interesting because it continues with the question of how an all good God can permit evil in the world He created. In this case, the physical evil of suffering, not moral evil (man in action).

Goodness is not merely kindness. Kindness is the will to prevent pain. Humans want more than just avoidance from pain. We also want to be free from ignorance and vice and sin (moral evil). If God acts only to prevent painful suffering, he is not truly all good. There is growth in suffering. If he saved us from all physical evil, how different would he be from the parent who does the child's homework?

This, I take issue with -- yes, it could be said that God made the best of a bad situation. But the rewards of the crucifixion -- the fact that Jesus was alive, and that we are forgiven -- it's often argued that the crucifixion was necessary for this, and I don't see how.

And yet, if God could've prevented the crucifixion, without interfering with free will -- for example, by allowing Jesus to ascend before he was lifted onto the cross -- why didn't he?

I think the main question here is why did Jesus have to die for us to be saved. There are some other things in your question worth talking about. (I'm running out of time tonight, I'm sorry).

When the Jewish mob approached Jesus with the adulterous woman, or when the Pharasees posed the question of paying tax to Ceasar, Jesus was given a question with an either-or answer: to condone evil or condemn it. To condone evil is to love it, which itself is an evil act. To condemn evil is to hate it, which leads to evil acts of self-righteousness, or hating the sinner, or the evil of hating in general.

Jesus gave a third answer which was not anticipated: forgiveness. This admits that evil is evil and doesn't water it down, either. It disconnects the sinner from the sin and sets the sinner free. Repentance is the same act but from the sinner's perspective.

God gives mercy and justice. Another either-or which seems impossible to solve. You should expect justice for your sin, but you hope for mercy. God cannot give both. This problem was solved by Jesus' crucifixion. Justice is done and mercy is granted. Jesus takes the punishment for our sins, we get the mercy.

Ascension without the punishment of crucifixion would not alleviate the need for justice.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

So, after a few hours of sleep, I have this:

but to ask what is before the beginning is like asking what is outside the Universe, and to ask what created, or caused it, is a nonsensical question. It's nonsensical because you understand cause and effect within time, which is a property of the Universe.

I take these statements as the core of your previous post; an argument opposed to first cause.

I agree that time is a property of the universe and that *I* understand cause and effect within time. However, my existence depends on the existence of something else. That something else depends on something else in turn. Somewhere at the front of the dependency chain is something that doesn't depend on something else to exist. I'm not claiming this is a time based cause-effect chain.

Lets assume that there is not an Uncaused Being, in other words, EVERYTHING has a present cause. However, outside of EVERYTHING is NOTHING. To say that everything is caused by nothing is nonsensical. Therefore, if there is not an uncaused being, nothing exists.

You and Carl Sagan seem to assert that the universe could be that first dependency, instead of a personal God. In other words, that the first cause is an 'it' not a 'he'. If not personal, then the universe would have to be infinitely old because all conditions for the universe would exist for all eternity. However, the universe is not infinitely old, so an impersonal first cause is an inconsistent hypothesis. I don't know if you accept that the universe is not infinitely old, so let me know.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

I know what irrational means, but I don't know what you mean when you say religion is irrational. Do you mean illogical, or without reason, or something else?

Both illogical and without reason. I see no particular reason for believing in a god, so that's without reason. I find it illogical to believe something without good reason, and I find most definitions of a god to be internally inconsistent, and thus illogical in themselves.

I'm disappointed. Are you expecting to convince anyone that religion is irrational because SanityInAnarchy hasn't found a particular reason to believe?

Even if you've shown Deism to be logical and reasonable (which I don't believe you have), that says nothing about Christianity.

Ok. You were looking for a good reason for belief in God. I was giving demonstration of reasoning about God. Guess I missed your expectation. Sorry.

Its not my intention to show that belief is rational with a proof of God's existence. I don't think you would be satisfied by anything I could contribute.

One wonders: is belief always illogical and without reason? In the absence of a rational proof, belief is irrational. In the presence of a rational proof, belief is unnecessary and irrational. Therefore, belief is always irrational. If that's the game your playing, I quit.

He abhors evil.

If he abhors evil, why does it exist? You also didn't address my point there: Why did he need to see his son tortured to death in order to forgive?

I avoided the point because it is a loaded question. I expected that since you are already of the opinion that belief in God is irrational, you would certainly not go so far as to accept any explanation on the subject. In case you missed it, I responded to another slashdotter in a cousin of this post. See my response to cyphercell, two up and over. I expect you to flay and quarter it, and leave it for dead. Have fun.

I admit, your challenges are beyond me. Its difficult to even know what reasons you have already rejected, and then to march out the ones you haven't seen yet? That's a chore.

I'm a believer for sure, but I'm a professional programmer, not a philosopher or theologian. I hope you keep open to the possibility that there is a reason to believe in God that you can accept.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

The Christian response is that evil is not an attribute of people or objects but is an attribute of actions. 'evil is as evil does', so to speak.

A counter argument is that God does not prevent evil acts so is complicit to them. The alternative for God, though, is to control people away from evil acts. Christians reason that for God to control us in this manner would be contradictory to his own will. He created us 'in His own image' which, we reckon, includes the ability to freely control our own actions.

So, what is 'evil' in Christian understanding? It likely has a different meaning for the non-Christian. Christians reason that since God is all good then any act that is contrary to God's will is evil. We reason that acts of evil separate us from unity with God and that without Jesus that separation is irreparable.

God does not prevent evil but he is not complacent to it either. God has good come from evil. There is no greater case of this than in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Christians believe that God, existence itself, was incarnate as a human with the name of Jesus. 'The Word made flesh'. We reason that the greatest evil ever done was to torture and murder God as man in Jesus. The effect of Jesus' resurrection is to overcome and conquer that evil. With victory over evil, we are now clear for reconciliation with God.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

As for the former, ok, lets talk. I pass on the latter.

I know what irrational means, but I don't know what you mean when you say religion is irrational. Maybe you offer a definition that works for me. Do you mean illogical, or without reason, or something else?

Or maybe I can start with this:

Yahweh is an evil fuck who would sooner see his only son tortured to death than simply forgive.

Just for the record: The above is not the Christian belief. Christians believe that God is goodness: only good come from him, and all that is good in the world is only from him. He abhors evil. God is mercy and justice: He forgives everything but requires repentance.

Interesting you picked the word 'Yahweh'. It happens to be the most sacred word in Judeo-Christian belief. It is the name of God. It is God's response to Moses at the burning bush when he asked (Gen 3:13-14): God replied, "I am who am". God is existence itself. Existence is God. This is quite similar to Budhist view of GodHead. Budhists are not required to believe in God, but do recognize a single source of existence, the one beginning, something eternal.

I invite you to consider God as existence itself.

Its certainly an act of human reason to think about the beginning of the universe. My reason cannot accept that the universe brought itself into existence. I didn't bring myself into existence, and an acorn didn't bring itself into existence. So, its not logical for me to think that the universe brought itself into existence. Something was there first; something eternal. Existence itself was there first.

Looking forward to continuing with you.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score 1) 397

If you're going to claim that your religion is the one religion that isn't a superstition -- or that religion is the one kind of irrational belief that isn't superstition

Sorry to duck a fight. I make neither of those claims. I do not claim that my religion is the one religion that isn't a superstition. I do not claim that religion is irrational belief.

Comment Re:debated != "mystery" (Score -1, Troll) 397

religion is a subclass of superstition.

Ask Jesus to come into your life and you will be blown away by His love. The experience is not superstition.

However, your point is, sadly, at times true, especially for those who practice religion as mere ritual.

Jesus told us to love like he loved us, then he let himself be crucified for our sake. This deep self-sacrificing love, which is at the root of the Christian religion, is far and away much higher than simple 'altruism'. Believing it, and living it is much different and more challenging than 'superstition'.

Comment montheism existed before Constantine (Score 1) 337

The Roman emperor you refer to is Constantine. Its true that he made Christianity the official religion of the empire. His mother was Christian at the time, but he wasn't. Indeed, its said he himself did not convert until on his deathbed.

In Constantine's time, the the Eastern empire was indeed under his political control. Later, after his death, the empire fractured. The eastern half became vulnerable to invasion by Islamic nations and was decimated. Islam is monotheistic and not dictated by Constantine or any Roman Emperor.

Monotheism pre-existed Constantine by about 2100 years. Books of the hebrew bible, which represent God monotheistically, were written perhaps as early as 1800 BC.

Monotheism was not selected over polytheism only because Constantine said so.

Slashdot Top Deals

Forty two.