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Journal Journal: 10 quotes about truth 15

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.

Truth springs from argument amongst friends.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today.

The real searcher after truth will not receive the old because it is old, or reject the new because it is new. He will not believe men because they are dead, or contradict them because they are alive. With him an utterance is worth the truth, the reason it contains, without the slightest regard to the author. He may have been a king or serf -- a philosopher or servant, -- but the utterance neither gains nor loses in truth or reason. Its value is absolutely independent of the fame or station of the man who gave it to the world.

1. Bible, 2. Albert Einstein, 3. Dorothy Thompson, 4. Anaïs Nin, 5. David Hume, 6. John F. Kennedy, 7. Pierre Abelard, 8. Stephen Hawking, 9. Tryon Edwards, 10. Robert G. Ingersoll
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Journal Journal: Don't you ever wish you could rewind that back? 2

I often think back on past situations - interactions - and consider what I learned from them. Their effect, in hindsight. I tend not to be a worried person, or regretful, but I do have moments of regret. The most poignant moments are those that can not be "done over". If I can't call up the person I was talking to - if I can't affect what I've done, I get a little pang: sadness, remorse, most often the echo of undeliverable gratitude.
Some of those situations are what you'd expect. I used to be at odds with one of my grandpas about religion and general world viewpoints. Obviously, I've been through a change, and feel like I could have learned a lot from him. Even before my recent release from dogmatism, I mourned the lost opportunities to get to know what my grandpa cared about, what drove him. But now, I most feel the pang of the fact that I can never say "Thanks" for all the insights he was able to impart, even when I was busy deflecting them.
Some of them are a little more odd - a few years back I traveled next to a man who was 30 years my senior on a 4 hour plane trip. We got to talking about a lot of things, but it all revolved around the question of what life is about. He was right about a lot of things, and I fought him on many of them - I wish I could somehow, even anonymously, send him a thanks for what he told me. I want him to experience the validation he deserves for spending some time and emotional energy on an ungrateful (now, I was polite, just not willing to listen) youngster.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [Religion] Why Believe? 42

I have a couple of thoughts, which may seem offensive, but I don't mean to be. These are just thoughts that have distilled out of my consideration of many different books, essays, talks, discussions, and debates. I'm hoping that it won't be offensive - as a matter of fact, I am sure that many of you on slashdot who disagree with me about whether or not there is a deity will actually agree with me about one or both of these points, though your final thoughts may be different.
No one has found a rational reason to believe in any deity.
There is no deity who is apparent.
Explanations for the above claims:
If there were a rational reason to believe in any deity, it surely would have been brought out in one of the debates against atheists, or in one of the many books and essays I've read about "why believe?", but it has not. I can not guaruntee that there is not a rational reason out there, undiscovered, but it seems unlikely. If one were to be found, I would be very excited to hear it, but for now, rationality must go out the window to believe.
If a deity were apparent (in the mystery of creation, or some such), there would be no major conflict about whether or not there is a deity among serious thinkers, and the attributes of said deity would not be so debated among the different religions.
If there is a deity, it must be a non-rational, unapparent deity. I know a few people who beleive in a deity that doesn't, by definition, try to tread into one of those areas, but most theists do tread there.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Douglas Adams was amazing 1

I just ran across this speech by Douglas Adams that covers what was in my last JE, and in many ways touches on a lot of other journals I've written recently. There are, in my opinion, some amazing insights in his speech.

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Journal Journal: What is life? 16

I've run into flack for the broadness of my personal definitions of life, that is, what is alive, what are the properties of life, and all that. What do you all think a good definition is, and are you concerned with the broadness of it applying to, for example, electro-mechanical constructs?

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Journal Journal: I am Skeptic, hear me question. 12

A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.

~ Steven Novella, Skepticblog

User Journal

Journal Journal: [Religion] Thoughts on readings (pt. 8) 21

Well, I finished a book a week ago, which, though not a book about religion, was definitely informative for my current thought process. It's called The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker. Pinker does talk about religion, but only in terms of what religion says about personality, and how that lines up with or contradicts science. In terms of religion, and specifically in relation to the question of a non-material part of the personality (a soul, or what not), all the evidence is that there isn't anything non-material to our humanity, consciousness, or personality. Now, this isn't absolute, it's just our best understanding of the mind, but for me, the burden of proof is definitely on the side of the non-materialists in this arena.
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Journal Journal: [Religion] Went to Church today. 5

It's the first time I've gone to church since the whole breakthrough in understanding and change in perspective I had back in June.

So what kind of church does an atheist agnostic secular humanist try out? I went to a local Unitarian Universalist congregation. In the end, I don't know what they really have to offer. I agree with a lot of their principles, and their focus on social justice, but I didn't feel like the sermon wrestled with the rough ideas of what it means to be spiritual and non-exclusive, or compelling us to social justice.

It wasn't bad, just not... exciting. Maybe I'm naive. Maybe I could only find that kind of excitement in a spiritual message when I believed in the supernatural. I don't know - I still find that excitement, but now I find it in relationships and discoveries (of beauty and knowledge), and not in reaching beyond the natural world in any sense.

Well, after all that, we're thinking of trying a different UU congregation next week - maybe a younger crowd with a more vibrant "spirituality" exists close by. If not, I will remain "unchurched".
User Journal

Journal Journal: [Religion] Thoughts on readings (pt. 7)

Well, I just finished reading Simply Christian: why Christianity makes sense by N.T. Wright (HarperOne, 2006, 1st ed.). He definitely moves away from why he believes in Christianity to what he thinks Christianity should be in the second half of the book. As he made that move, I found him to become more and more condescending towards non-Christian perspectives (statements like, "I don't mean the kind of "sense" you get within the flatland world of secular imagination" - frankly, this smacks of the same unfounded elitist attitudes that say things like "only Christians have true joy" or the like.). In the end, if you're a Christian, you may find the book inspiring, but for me, it fell pretty flat in the end, and provided nothing compelling in its case for God.
User Journal

Journal Journal: [Religion] Thoughts on readings (pt. 6) 11

Well, I finished Carl Sagan's book, and there's not a lot of commentary on religion in the latter half of the book, so I won't comment on it except to say that the book is very enlightening, insightful, and inspirational.

On to the "religion" referenced in the subject line, I'm currently reading Simply Christian: why Christianity makes sense by N.T. Wright (HarperOne, 2006, 1st ed.). I do appreciate some of what he has to say, but I can't say that he's making good cases for all his points, especially on the matters that are at the crux of the issue for me. As an example, on the question of Jesus and miracles, Wright makes this comment:

The remaking of God's people was at the heart, too, of his remarkable healings. There is no doubt, historically, that he possessed healing powers; that was why he attracted not only crowds but also accusations of being in league with the devil. (p.101)

For me, there's two problems with that statement.

First, many people, even in the modern world, attract many followers and accusations for "performing healings" (The fact that every seriously investigated or well documented case shows no sign of anything miraculous, and often shows the "healer" to be a charlatan, is also, in my opinion, relavent). The fact of crowds, and even antagonistic believers (i.e. he did it, but he used EVIL to do it!), does nothing to prove the veracity of the claims of healing.

Secondly, the only testimony we have of all three things (healings, crowds, accusers) are four documents written 40 years after the claimed events are purported to happen, and then later commentary on those four books. Not exactly something that deserves the weight of the words "there is no doubt, historically". There's a whole world of extraordinary claims made in ancient texts that we dismiss as non-historical, and unless there's something I'm missing, this claim has no more substantiation that the others.

A clarification is in order here, as well. I'm not saying that people can't believe that Jesus did healings. I'm just saying that it is entirely a matter of faith, and there are no "doubtless historical facts" to base that faith on.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [Religion] Quotable Roberts 25

"When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." - Stephen F. Roberts

I don't believe Roberts is really notable for saying anything else.

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