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Conversation Overflow for Please Refrain from “Anti-Moderates” Rhetoric

January 27th, 2009 · Posted by Hugo · 80 Comments

This post is for the purpose of continuing the conversation from the previous post, whose comment thread was getting too long. (A new cutline supports WordPress’ paged comments, but looses comment numbering, which we use a lot.)

Categories: Religion and Science
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80 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Hugo // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:30 am

    I’m duplicating the most recent six comments of this thread… :

  • 2 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:31 am

    @Amanda

    The God of the Bible has given me enough evidence to come to have faith in Him and to love Him and to serve Him.

    What is this evidence?

    You are saying the God of the Bible should have given more evidence of His existence and because He has not, He cannot be true?

    OK, this needs some explanation.

    I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me that human beings are capable of imagining a tremendous, some might say infinite, number of different things. I also think you will agree with me that many, if not most, of those things do not correspond to reality. Think of fantasy/scifi books or shows, for example. In order for us to determine which of our internal ideas closest match reality, we need to test those ideas against the evidence.

    An example. Say the light in your room doesn’t go on. There are a tremendous number of possible reasons why this might be the case. They might be plausible (the bulb has blown, the power is off) or they might be bizarre (the power-pixies have stolen all the electricity; the electrons are tired), but only one corresponds to reality. We can test this (in most cases) pretty easily to determine which of these conceptual models most closely approximates reality. Replace the bulb, check the mains etc. etc., and you can see which of your explanations is the more correct one. You gather evidence to choose between your hypotheses.

    How does god factor into this? In two ways. You might hypothesize that god exists. Lets assume this is the Christian god for now. We’ll come back to that later. Another hypothesis is that all of the actions attributed to this god actually happened. In other words, the Bible is literally true. This provides us with a tremendous number of possible hypotheses to test. If there was a global flood, then fossils in older rock strata should not be different from those in younger ones. If Jonah really survived in a whale, then whales should be able to support a human being in their alimentary canals. If the sun stood still for Joshua, then the movement of the planets should reflect this.

    The problem is, virtually all of these hypotheses have been convincingly refuted, or, if shown to be true, to have other, more natural explanations. What this means is that we cannot trust the Bible to tell us anything about the god which inhabits its pages. Fossils are stratified. Whales have gullets so small an orange can’t pass through. Our understanding of planetary movement is so good that we can show conclusively, to the minute, when and where an eclipse will occur. And the chance of the sun standing still, or even of the earth standing still (a much more plausible hypothesis), based on this evidence, is incredibly remote.

    So, where does that leave us? We can test many things that the Bible tells us. Almost all of those stories fail the test of reality. Which means that, even if there were a god, with every falsified hypothesis, we lose information on who he is. We can’t assign any personality traits to him. We know nothing conclusive or strongly-supported about him. We must be very careful about trusting anything the Bible says is the literal truth about him. At best, this will force a person to consider the Bible in a more metaphorical light. It cannot be literally true, simply because the evidence does not support it.

    This brings me back to the first point. We’re still left with the hypothesis of a god. I will fully concede that I cannot, ever, disprove the existence of a god. There is always a possibility that this is the case. There are two answers to this. One is Russell’s teapot. The other is more tangential, in that, if that god exists, then he/she/it/they do(es) not have any of the characteristics assigned to it by any conventional religion, because virtually all of those characteristics have either failed the test of evidence, or are untestable, and thus unknowable with any degree of certainty. The chances of your conception of god and the real thing being the same, given we can’t know it, are extremely small.

    So. That is effectively my reasoning behind my lack of belief in a god. It’s not about faith (inasmuch as I lack it), or getting back at someone for not existing, or any somesuch. It is a simple lack of evidence.

    Hope this clarifies things.

  • 3 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:32 am

    @Amanda

    Right. So absolute evil cannot exist.

    I don’t recall making the argument that it does. Neither does absolute good.

    @Ben-Jammin’

    Yes. There’s not much point in two people with different understandings of what the + symbol means arguing about the correct answer to 2+2.

    Point taken. Lets hope we can agree on the plus sign, then.

    @gerhard
    AFAIK, he is only giving a single talk, in Grahamstown. I don’t really know much more, but if I hear anything more concrete, I’ll let you know.

  • 4 Thomas // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:33 am

    There is an immense literature on the evolution of altruism out there. For one thing, it increases the chances of survival of your close kin, who carry your genes. For another, if you can trust someone to reciprocate your good deeds, then both of you win in the long run. Thus altruism has been shown to be an evolutionarily stable outcome, both by models of kin selection, and by game theory. More importantly, it is supported by huge amounts of evidence.

    So this is a non-question. It assumes that morality come from god. We have no evidence to show that it does. We have abundant evidence to show that empathy, compassion, co-operation, and altruism are evolutionarily favoured traits within the context of a social primate such as ourselves.

    If morality does not come from a supreme being called God, from whence does it come? Kenneth supplies the answer in his rather selfish solution for the problem : “For another, if you can trust someone to reciprocate your good deeds, then both of you win in the long run.” Trust between two human beings can be a very shaky thing especially when you want the other persons to reciprocate (or imitate) your good deeds. By doing this you are immediately assuming the role of a trendsetter for high morals, engendered by your personal opinion of good deeds. As soon as you set the standard for altruism and expect others to follow suit you are playing God. “Ok guys, here are the good deeds I want you to do. Trust me and follow my example of doing good deeds and we will all win in the long run.” Had this been the ultimate solution, countries would have had no need of governments and leaders to make laws to protect the law abiding citizens and to punish the law breakers.

    The alternative, of course, is to gather a group of people around you who are in sympathy with your particular brand of good deeds. You see, no two people always agree on what constitutes good deeds. You may want to be a Robin Hood figure who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Which one of the two is the good deed? Morality is not determined so much by what you do but what you actually refrain from doing. Most of the Ten Commandments are negative commands beginning with “You shall not.” Man will never be uplifted morally by telling him what to do, for the simple reason that he already knows what it means to do good. Even the beast, Adolf Hitler, knew how to extend an altruistic hand to his next of kin.

    No matter what you say or believe in regard to altruism and its so-called evolutionary development, the laws of a country are derived from the Ten Commandments which proves that morality comes from God. You cannot separate empathy, compassion, and co-operation (your own words) from God’s Commandments. Stealing from your neigbour and lusting after your neigbours wife (even in your thoughts) comes from a heart that is devoid of empathy, compassion and co-operation.

  • 5 Hugo // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:33 am

    In that comment, Thomas actually touches on some of the theories raised by anthropologists for how/why belief in gods/the-supernatural developed among primitive societies, setting up an external agent / trust-enforcer in the communities that discovered the meme, providing them with a trust/cooperation benefit that leads to survival of those communities. A meme-gene co-adapted/co-evolved combination is born, beneficial for both gene and meme.

    Remarkably interesting stuff, I should’ve studied anthroplogy! ;-)

  • 6 Thomas // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:34 am

    To Kenneth Oberlander.

    Here is a very interesting article on morals you can read.

    http://www.thebereancall.org/node/7125

  • 7 Amanda // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:35 am

    @Kenneth Oberlander

    Hope this clarifies things.

    Yes. You reject the Bible. Got it.

    @Hugo

    Before you kill this thread, I want to thank you for having me here and teaching me what a christ follower believes and rejects. Not everybody is this open about it. I am especially grateful to you for alerting me to the freedom of speech issue. It has been right in front of me for years and I missed it. Of course, emergents do not use that term, but they are teaching their followers to refrain from saying ‘hurtful’ things. It would be in the interest of ‘peace’ and the unification of all religions to silence the fundamentalist by taking away their right to freedom of speech, just as Gerhard advocated. This one is definitely going onto my checklist. This weekend we have the spectacle of Tony Campolo coming to Moreletapark’s Missions Fest. I wonder if all the attendees will be issued with their own little white flags:

    On evangelicals and interfaith cooperation: an interview with Tony Campolo by Shane Claiborne 2005:

    We don’t have to give up trying to convert each other. What we have to do is show respect to one another. And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don’t convert, they are God’s people, God loves them, and we do not make the judgment of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.

    I think that what we all have to do is leave judgment up to God. The Muslim community is very evangelistic, however what Muslims will not do is condemn Jews and Christians to Hell if in fact they do not accept Islam…

    I think there are Muslim brothers and sisters who are willing to say, “You live up to the truth as you understand it. I will live up to the truth as I understand it, and we will leave it up to God on judgment day”…

    Catholicism would say that at the moment of death every person is confronted in that split moment with Christ and is given the opportunity of saying yes or no. To say otherwise is to say God has got to be a pretty unfair deity, to condemn three quarters of the human race to hell without them ever having a chance.

    Hugo, thank you for your patience and hospitality.

    Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev 3:20)

  • 8 Hugo // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Here’s a comment I withheld for a while, to avoid distracting from an interesting conversation… :


    On what Jesus believed vs what we should believe or not believe, @Amanda:

    Nope. I believe Jesus Christ. He believed it really happened. Next?

    Jesus referred to the tradition/texts/stories of the culture. I’d argue it does *not* mean that those stories were taken as literal historical fact. Jesus can refer to those stories whether they are factual or not.

    Of course, I don’t even mind if Jesus believed the earth was flat, for example. In particular, I believe Jesus was fully human, and that humans are never all-knowing, so Jesus, as human, wasn’t all-knowing.

    Furthermore, I also believe we’re expected to use the minds/senses we are blessed with, which means not denying the evidence of the age of the earth. (Do you believe the earth is less than six thousand years old?)

    On who the “unbelievers” are, that’s another thing that depends on your theology. different definitions. Borg quote time:

    Second, it was doctrinal. Being a Christian meant believing Christianity’s central doctrinal teachings. In churches that used either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed regularly, you were a “real” Christian if you could say the creed without crossing your fingers or becoming silent during any of the phrases.

    That one made me smile. ;-) “It” refers to the doctrinal kind of Christianity you like.

    What do you think of this piece, suggesting there are times when *we all* deny the resurrection at times: http://peterrollins.net/blog/?p=136 – i.e. including you.

    This is a theological stance that turns us all unbelievers at times, and believers at others, and removes that clean Pharisaic separation between the “pure” and the “unpure”, the “sheep” and the “goats”. It removes the sense of “I’m in the select group, the in-crowd”, which is a very normal, natural (“worldly”?) reaction among humans, who love finding an identity in their in-group to the detriment of those outside it.

    On unity in Christ, try the YouTube video clip in this post, it could provide you with some more anti-emergent fodder, you might like it (not the clip, but rather having more “incriminating evidence” about “emergents”, for your collection):
    http://peterrollins.net/blog/?p=115

    Another post that you will probably like, as it reflects your anti-emergent sentiments, and kinda horrified me by its mere existence (noting the lack of any of the weighty thoughts of the original song):
    http://contemporarycalvinist.blogspot.com/2009/01/just-imagine.html


    In other news, I’ve read the Jihad Watch article you linked earlier, it was indeed eye-opening. “New Atheists” believe “moderates” (or those perceived as such) serve as a buffer to protect fundies from criticism, this article makes it seem that is certainly the case in Islam. The moderates in Islam is considered “on the fundies’ side”. When it comes to Christianity though, do you consider the “moderates” to be on the non-believers’ side, or on the side of the “fundies” (not meant negatively)?

    Furthermore, assuming Islam is as big a problem as that article suggests (I’m skeptical… I believe there are indeed many “moderates”, and that the most virulent, and “literally accurate” strain of Islam isn’t as common as moderates are, though I recognise that the virulent strain may ride “on the back of” moderate Muslims): I’m most interested in what you would suggest as the best course of action in solving this problem of “violent Islam”. How would you go about a discussion with a bunch of Muslims?

  • 9 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 18, 2009 at 4:12 am

    @Kenneth:

    Lets hope we can agree on the plus sign, then.

    I know that I can’t think of any way to convince me an authoritarian morality is what I should follow. I can understand what they’re saying and how it is, in its own way, a consistent moral system. For myself, though, it’s an arbitrary set of rules that are followed without any consideration of the effects of those rules on thinking subjects.

    When I read Thomas and Amanda, I see an even more pronounced lack of ability to conceive of a differing (values-based) morality. What I consider morality is just subjective opinions to them, not really right or wrong. There is no empathy there. They can’t even muster up the empathy to see the system much less build a morality based on it.

    Loren Cobb has written some very interesting stuff that is, I think, very related.

  • 10 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 18, 2009 at 8:38 am

    @Thomas

    If morality does not come from a supreme being called God, from whence does it come? Kenneth supplies the answer in his rather selfish solution for the problem :

    It isn’t my answer. It is a well-established part of evolutionary science. Go and look up game theory or kin selection. Furthermore, whether it is selfish or not (to you) has nothing to bear on it’s validity. Which I addressed above. If you don’t like it, tough. Go and do some research to invalidate these ideas.

    As soon as you set the standard for altruism and expect others to follow suit you are playing God.

    It’s very simple. If you expect to be treated well, then treat others well, but beware of liars. This is an evolutionarily stable strategy. This has nothing to do with a god. That is my entire point.

    No matter what you say or believe in regard to altruism and its so-called evolutionary development, the laws of a country are derived from the Ten Commandments which proves that morality comes from God.

    Bullshit. In which country is Honour your father and mother enshrined in the constitution? In which country is You shall have no other god before me enforced? Where in any country are you refused the making of false idols?

    You might not like the answers.

    Not to mention that this is shifting the goalposts. Do you have any evidence to refute current ideas concerning the evolution of altruism?

    You cannot separate empathy, compassion, and co-operation (your own words) from God’s Commandments.

    Yes you can. As I tried to show you above. Rote repeating of assertions is going to get us nowhere.

  • 11 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 18, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Dammit. I really suck at blockquotes.

    @Amanda.

    Yes. You reject the Bible. Got it.

    Sigh.

    I hope that you can at least mentally add on with good reason.

    @Hugo
    I’d like to echo Amanda’s comment. Thanks for the attention paid this thread.

    @Ben-Jammin’

    For myself, though, it’s an arbitrary set of rules that are followed without any consideration of the effects of those rules on thinking subjects.

    Agreed.

    The Loren Cobb article is interesting. Thanks.

  • 12 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 18, 2009 at 9:22 am

    @Thomas
    I read your link. It’s not very convincing, particularly when the second sentence starts with:

    At the same time, atheists, who deny there is any purpose or meaning to life

    This statement is utterly untrue.

    The remainder of the article goes downhill from there.

    French society remains largely atheistic to this day, though the vast majority still call themselves Catholics.

    It’s doing pretty darn well, considering.

    The next paragraph builds up to a No True Scotsman.

    But moral acts, if they are the product of evolution, have no moral basis.

    Yes they do. In the mathematics of game theory. More importantly, this is consistent with evidence.

    A nice argument from authority in the next paragraph. Science has moved on since John Eccles.

    Does a chimp, lizard, or fungus know anything of morals?

    Hot off the press!
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5733638.ece

    Isn’t that deficiency a sufficient basis for elevating humans above a fungus?

    No it isn’t, because morality isn’t universal! It is human.

    Nice Godwinning two paras down.

    Jonas Salk believed this pitiful nonsense and earnestly expressed its hopelessness: “We do not have to survive as a species. What is important is that we keep evolving.”3 How can our evolution be important if it doesn’t matter whether or not we survive as a species?

    Oh my Thor. Because if we evolved enough, we wouldn’t be the same species. We would be a different one

    Equality is nowhere found in nature. It could never be the outcome of evolution through natural selection.

    Argument from ignorance.

    The soul that he admitted might exist is nonphysical, and its existence does not end with the death of the body.

    Argument from assertion.

    No part of the physical body thinks.

    Argument from profound ignorance.

    The brain certainly does not initiate our thoughts.

    Argument from lying.

    I give up. I could barely make it a third of the way through the article. Someone tell me the rest isn’t like this!

  • 13 -M- // Feb 18, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    My 2 cents contribution about the link that Thomas pointed out (because I just cant let it go): yes the French society is largely a secular society and *no* they *will not* call themselves catholics. However, if someone ask them what is the main religious group in France, they will say the catholics.

    Kenneth: I share your pain and frustration!! :)

  • 14 Thomas // Feb 18, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    @ Kenneth Oberlander

    Bullshit. In which country is Honour your father and mother enshrined in the constitution? In which country is You shall have no other god before me enforced? Where in any country are you refused the making of false idols?

    Well, perhaps you should put your country’s laws to the test. Rob a bank and while you’re at it kill a few people as well. I may even visit you in jail to present you with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The United States current pledge of allegiance reads as follows:

    “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”

    The phrase “under God” implies that you should at least honour your father and mother. Do atheists honour their fathers and mothers? If your parents are Christians your honouring of them should at least include some kind of honour for their God as well.

    God never enforces His commandments on anyone. Nonetheless, if you were to disobey Him you must expect to be punished or perhaps you have no such expectations, bearing in mind that you probably believe you can steal and murder without being punished by your country’s legal system.

    No it isn’t, because morality isn’t universal! It is human.

    I have never seen such a pitiful argument in all my life. Isn’t humanity universal? Oh, of course, there are many inhuman beings on other planets who are completely a-moral or immoral.

  • 15 Thomas // Feb 18, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    @ Kenneth Oberlander

    No it isn’t, because morality isn’t universal! It is human.

    How does your above statement gell with your “Hot off the press” reference to http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5733638.ece? According to the latter, morality can at least be extended to monkeys. In that case morality is not only a human trait but also of chimps. What about fungi? Never fear, evolutionist mays have another billion years to prove that fungi have also evolved into moral beings.

  • 16 Thomas // Feb 18, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    @ Kenneth Oberlander an -M-

    If your distinguised scientist and professor of psychology, Frans de Waal, can prove to me that the animal kingdom has its own legal and judiciary system I will admit that animals have evolved into moral beings. He must prove to me that when a predator kills and eats another animal that the rest of the animal kingdom hunts him down, charges him with murder and prosecutes him in a court of law. You see, Kenneth, that’s exactly the difference beween you and an animal – justice and righteousness. Animals are not obliged to keep the Ten Commandments . . . You are! They will never be judged by God for their so-called moral and altruistic deeds . . . You will! The fact that you are made in the image of God proves beyond any shadow of doubt that God exists and that you will be held accountable for your deeds of unbelief and disobedience.

  • 17 Hugo // Feb 18, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Thomas, are you really unable to understand what Kenneth was talking about? Did you even try?

    Bullshit. In which country is Honour your father and mother enshrined in the constitution? In which country is You shall have no other god before me enforced? Where in any country are you refused the making of false idols?

    Well, perhaps you should put your country’s laws to the test. Rob a bank and while you’re at it kill a few people as well. I may even visit you in jail to present you with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    You’re talking about killing and stealing there, Kenneth was specifically talking about:

    – honour your father and mother
    – you shall have no other god before me
    – you shall not make false idols…

    Put *those* to the test, and see what your country does to you. *NOTHING*. Your country doesn’t care about those three. Thus, your country doesn’t care about “The Ten Commandments”. It does care about the “universal human morals” of “do not murder your own tribe”, “do not steal within your own tribe”, the kind of laws shared by other nations based on other religions. *That* is what Kenneth was saying. Again, did you even try to understand?

    you probably believe you can steal and murder without being punished by your country’s legal system

    Thomas… *sigh*… I can’t believe you’re still writing such moronic sentences. Inanities! What’s the point of responding to *anything* you say if you seem to lack *any* desire to communicate accurately? (Communication being a two-way thing.)

    If you are genuinely interested in hearing an explanation of the things you so grossly misunderstand / miscomprehend, apparently lacking any desire to understand / comprehend, you can ask again and show genuine interest, then I’ll be happy answer.

    gerhard, tell me, do you think there’s much point in giving e.g. Thomas an “equal voice” in this comment thread if he behaves like this? (I’m interested in exploring your views on commenting-privileges.)

    Amanda, *please* tell me you understand more than Thomas does?

  • 18 Kari // Feb 18, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Thomas, do we hunt people who kill other animals for food down and try them before a court of law? You can’t compare people with animals and say the one is more moral or righteous than the other. Other animals and even cultures work differently and you can’t always use your frame of reference to judge them. Would it be immoral for a female spider to eat the male after mating? No… that’s just the way things work in spider-land. Morality could only evolve once the animal is capable of thought and able to influence it’s world by acting on these thoughts. A judiciary system is a long way from that, but that does not mean some basic morality (akin to humans’) is absent.
    The pledge of allegiance also didn’t include the words ‘under God’ originally, it was only added in 1954.

    Yawn.

  • 19 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 12:38 am

    And @Ben’Jammin, who has himself discovered the limits of his empathy, the limits of his ability to conceive of others’ viewpoints: do you think I could possibly be too harsh in my previous comment?

    Could you conceive of the possibility that Thomas actually sincerely tried to understand, but was simply unable to understand? I suppose it is possible that someone’s world-view is so reinforced (and dare I say “incestuous” in the memetic sense) that their mind simply doesn’t even permit itself to *dare* try and understand what TheOther means… but I seriously expect more openness/effort, and I don’t think I’m asking too much?

    (Thomas, you’re more than welcome to weigh in on this, if you can demonstrate an ability to be thoughtful and self-reflective about it. And I mean that in a sincerely friendly way.)

  • 20 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 19, 2009 at 6:19 am

    do you think I could possibly be too harsh in my previous comment? Could you conceive of the possibility that Thomas actually sincerely tried to understand, but was simply unable to understand?

    Yes, I can conceive of that possibility. I don’t know if it’s true or not.

    Hmmm….this comment might be of Hugo-like verbosity. We’ll see.

    The popular image of a person is of a generalized, thinking being, with generally similar mental abilities and such. I don’t think this is true. (In high school, I thought I phrased it cleverly as ‘We don’t really think. We just think we do.) People’s brains are the products of incredibly diverse physical and meme environments and are irrevocably ‘wired’ by such things. As such, the idea that people can freely think any particular thought after any other particular thought or stimulus is wrong. A common language, time, culture, etc. will mask a lot of inner differences.

    Anatomically modern humans have been around for thousands of years. Granted that we have changed some, physically, but most of the differences between humans is due to individual nature and nurture differences, not changes in the species. So think of ALL the variation in cultures’ and individuals’ behavior in all of human history. All of that variation is due to nature and nurture. You take the same million individuals and have them born as ancient Aztecs – they’ll sacrifice thousands to appease their sun God. You take the same million individuals and have them born as modern Swedes – totally different. You take a set of individuals and have them born in the U.S. in the early 20th century – they will see race one way. Have them born in the late 20th century and they will see race another way.

    So, yes, I think it is very possible that people vary that greatly in their ability to empathize or see things from different perspectives. (Loren Cobb’s essay I linked to previously talked about this some too.)

    I’ve spent more of my life thinking from a naturalist viewpoint than you have, I think. (Though for many years I didn’t think about it much at all.) I also think I’ve taken more psychology classes. Naturalism and the idea of fully natural and fully caused minds, brains, and people make for a very different perspective. On my good days (sigh) I am more consistent in my accepting that other people are honestly doing the best thing as best they know just as I am.

    I suppose it is possible that someone’s world-view is so reinforced (and dare I say “incestuous” in the memetic sense) that their mind simply doesn’t even permit itself to *dare* try and understand what TheOther means… but I seriously expect more openness/effort, and I don’t think I’m asking too much?

    I don’t think you’re asking too much. But I do think what you’re asking is always going to be beyond some people, just as there are things that others can ask of me that will always be beyond me.

    Bah…I don’t feel like what I’m communicating what I’m trying to say. I think that the phrase ‘their mind’ implies more similarity between one mind and another than actually exists. (I’m often a hypocrite when I rant and criticize people excessively.)

    Have you ever read any naturalist / materialist writings on people and the different perspective from the popular conceptions? naturalism.org has some really good and free stuff, Dennett’s Freedom Evolves is OK, Owen Flanagan’s The Problem of the Soul: Two Visions of Mind and How to Reconcile Them was really good.

    Perhaps the best summary from the naturalism.org site:

    Connection – Compassion – Control

    Connection: Everything we are and do is completely connected to the rest of the world. Our bodies and minds are shaped in their entirety by conditions that precede us and surround us. Each of us is an unfolding, natural process, and every aspect of that process is caused, and is a cause itself. We are therefore entirely at home in the physical universe.

    Compassion: Seeing that we are fully caused creatures – not self-caused – we can no longer take or assign ultimate credit or blame for what we do. This leads to an ethics of compassion and understanding, both toward ourselves and others. We see that there but for circumstances go I. We would have been the homeless person in front of us, the convict, or the addict, had we been given their genetic and environmental lot in life.

    Control: Understanding how we are caused to behave as we do gives us increased powers of prediction and control. Instead of supposing people can simply will themselves to be otherwise, we concentrate our energies on creating the conditions which promote constructive personal and social change. The ethics of compassion is matched by a practical efficacy based in scientific knowledge.

  • 21 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:36 am

    @Thomas
    Are you aware that the “under god” phrase was added in to the Pledge of Allegiance in the fifties? And where in the words “under god” are the words “father” and “mother” smuggled in?

    My point here was exactly what Hugo said. Certain laws happen to correspond to certain of the Commandments, because those are Commandments that can be justified on an entirely secular, empathetic basis. Other Commandments are absolute violations of any right held as inviolate by most democracies, such as freedom of religion etc. etc. These are not laws based on Biblical values, they are laws based on Enlightenment values. Big difference.

    If your parents are Christians your honouring of them should at least include some kind of honour for their God as well.

    This is a non-sequitur. I honour my parents because they are my parents. No matter their beliefs.

    I have never seen such a pitiful argument in all my life. Isn’t humanity universal? Oh, of course, there are many inhuman beings on other planets who are completely a-moral or immoral.

    You have completely misunderstoof my point, which Kari admirably rectified. Humans aren’t universal, we are a single species on a single planet in a single galaxy in the midst of an immense universe. Our moral systems reflect that.

    According to the latter, morality can at least be extended to monkeys.

    My point stands. Our morality is ours. It is human. And yes, certain aspects of our morality can indeed be extended to chimps. That morality is different from ours, but has a common basis due to our shared evolutionary heritage.

    And by the way, chimps aren’t monkeys. They are apes.

    Never fear, evolutionist mays have another billion years to prove that fungi have also evolved into moral beings.

    Given another billion years, one of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi might very well do so.

    @-M-
    Thanks for the clarification!

  • 22 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:51 am

    If your distinguised scientist and professor of psychology, Frans de Waal, can prove to me that the animal kingdom has its own legal and judiciary system I will admit that animals have evolved into moral beings.

    1) Why him specifically?

    2) You are aware that science doesn’t deal with proof? We confirm or refute hypotheses. We never prove them. Proofs are left to the likes of mathematicians like Ben-Jammin’.

    3) You will have to concede this point, because at least one member of the animal kingdom has its own legal and judiciary system. In fact this species has many.

    I think you can see where I am going with this last one.

    They will never be judged by God for their so-called moral and altruistic deeds . . . You will!

    That’s interesting. Pity he damned them all to death and suffering when Adam and Eve sinned. Animals get punished for someone elses crimes, and don’t even have the chance to plead innocent.

    The fact that you are made in the image of God proves beyond any shadow of doubt that God exists

    1) No, it doesn’t. You are assuming what you are trying to prove.

    2) Even if this was true, does this mean that:
    a) god breathes/eats/drinks/excretes/secretes/perspires/has flatulence/blinks etc. etc.
    b) if not, why does god need lungs/alimentary canal/osmoregulation/bowels/pancreas/skin/sphincter control/eyelids etc. etc.?

  • 23 Amanda // Feb 19, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Compassion: Seeing that we are fully caused creatures – not self-caused – we can no longer take or assign ultimate credit or blame for what we do.

    Not so.

    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8)

    But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2Ti 3:1-5)

    Hugo asked:

    Could you conceive of the possibility that Thomas actually sincerely tried to understand, but was simply unable to understand?

    I dare say Thomas understood perfectly.

    For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2Ti 4:3-4)

    For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1Pe 4:3-5)

    How frustrating that the Bible, concocted by the imagination of men, understands this age so well. And Hugo, maybe a spoonful of sugar would help?

  • 24 Amanda // Feb 19, 2009 at 10:13 am

    That’s interesting. Pity he damned them all to death and suffering when Adam and Eve sinned. Animals get punished for someone elses crimes, and don’t even have the chance to plead innocent.

    Kenneth in judgement of the Lord again.

    Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? (Job 40:8)

    The Lord promised that the creation will be set free:

    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom 8:18-21)

    The Lord does not forget His creatures:

    Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. (Luk 12:6)

    The Lord is both righteous and merciful:

    But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:21-26)

    Kenneth confused again.

    Even if this was true, does this mean that:
    a) god breathes/eats/drinks

    Albert Barnes explains:

    Man. – Man is a new species, essentially different from all other kinds on earth. “In our image, after our likeness.” He is to be allied to heaven as no other creature on earth is. He is to be related to the Eternal Being himself. This relation, however, is to be not in matter, but in form; not in essence, but in semblance. This precludes all pantheistic notions of the origin of man. “Image” is a word taken from sensible things, and denotes likeness in outward form, while the material may be different. “Likeness” is a more general term, indicating resemblance in any quality, external or internal. It is here explanatory of image, and seems to show that this term is to be taken in a figurative sense, to denote not a material but a spiritual conformity to God. The Eternal Being is essentially self-manifesting. The appearance he presents to an eye suited to contemplate him is his image. The union of attributes which constitute his spiritual nature is his character or likeness.

  • 25 Amanda // Feb 19, 2009 at 10:59 am

    @ Hugo

    but I seriously expect more openness/effort, and I don’t think I’m asking too much?

    Yes, you are. Thomas obeys the Lord and tries to discern what is pleasing to Him;

    Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
    (Eph 5:6-12)

    Thomas understands your true condition and he is doing his duty to warn you:

    I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2Ti 4:1-4)

  • 26 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Hmmm… so we’re doomed to talk past one another, as I dare say neither Thomas nor you “understood perfectly” (and I consider that an understatement). So the most interesting interactions can come out of discussing *other* matters. Amanda, did you see the comment/question on how you’d approach a Muslim? (I remain curious, if you’re keen to discuss that subject.)

    Ben’Jammin, did you pick up on Thomas also confirming the God as Meaning Assigner aspect of “a god”?

  • 27 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 19, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    @Amanda

    How frustrating that the Bible, concocted by the imagination of men, understands this age so well.

    There are other reasons for this. This is confirmation bias. These particular Biblical quotes are true for every generation that has ever lived. These are statements about normal human nature, not a unique proclivity of this particular age.

    Kenneth in judgement of the Lord again.

    You say this like it is a bad thing.

    Kenneth confused again.

    So, in other words, you aren’t taking this part of the Bible literally?

    However did you choose? Why this part in particular?

  • 28 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Ben’Jammin, did you pick up on Thomas also confirming the God as Meaning Assigner aspect of “a god”?

    Yes, I did. I almost commented on it. :)

  • 29 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Thomas and Amanda, I’m still very curious what you make of this quote, which the author of “Matthew” attributes to Jesus:

    “…he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

  • 30 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I have learnt to anticipate your answers and I’m beginning to think that you are the ones who are really unable to understand.

    Killing and stealing are the products of a person who usurps the right – in violation of the laws of his country – to do as he pleases, and that, young man, is the essence of idolatry. People who steal and kill, think they are answerable or accountable to no one, not even the highest authority of their countries. They are a law unto themselves, and that, young man, is the essence of idolatry.

    A boy and girl who honour their fathers and mothers will probably learn to honour and respect other people and their possessions as well, giving them an advantage over those who do not. You see, Hugo, we are dealing here with behavioral patterns, inculcated from childhood, that may or may not have a profound influence on your later life. I am not saying that children who honour their fathers and mothers are not prone to stealing and murdering. In fact the Bible teaches that if I’m angry with my brother without cause I’m in danger of judgment.

    Perhaps – and I’m hoping you would start to think with logical precision – you may now understand why the Ten Commandments are not to be seen as separate laws. They are a closely-knit unit, so much so that if you transgress one of them you have broken them all. And that is precisely why a thief and a murderer is simultaneously an idolator who has another god (himself) before the supreme God of the universe.

    Please make sure that you understand before you accuse others of willful ignorance.

  • 31 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I understand that that is how you see things.

    The point is there are two things, no many actually, to understand in this conversation: how you see things, how I see things, how Ben’Jammin sees things, etc.

    And understanding doesn’t mean agreeing, of course. I thus propose I understand how you see things, and how I see things, and how Ben’Jammin sees things. And then apart from the understanding, we’re disagreeing, but that’s another debate. The thing we’re struggling with, or I’m struggling with, is actually believing that you understand how Ben’Jammin sees things, or how I see things. That is what I mean with “I don’t think you understand”. I’m certainly not expecting you to agree with our ways, but understanding is surely the first step to better communication?

    What I accused you of, thus, and maybe not fairly, I don’t know: wilful ignorance of how we see things. I did not accuse you of ignorance of “The Truth”, whatever that may be, that is not what I’m on about. It is conceivable that someone could fully comprehend “The Real Truth” but still not understand us, and be wilfully ignorant of the latter, because having The Real Truth is enough for them. They care not to understand others, thus: they’re wilfully ignorant.

    Maybe explained in that light, in that context, you might proudly be wilfully ignorant of what you perceive to be “the incorrect ways of seeing things”, you maybe proudly don’t care to understand what you believe are “Falsehoods”?

  • 32 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Hugo,

    There is of course such a thing as logical assumptions. It is quite logical to assume that someone who steals and murders is satisfying his appetite for supremacy (power). However, it is very illogical, and quite frankly very stupid, to assume that you can get away with it. Hence my emphasis on the judiciary of countries. It doesn’t take much to understand why a Supreme Being needs to judge and punish a transgressor when the judiciary deems it necessry to do the very same. It doesn’t matter how I, you or someone else see things, logical thinking remains one of the most simple and water tight ways of reaching consensus. Even a chimp with moral attributes knows that.

  • 33 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    What I accused you of, thus, and maybe not fairly, I don’t know: wilful ignorance of how we see things. I did not accuse you of ignorance of “The Truth”, whatever that may be, that is not what I’m on about. It is conceivable that someone could fully comprehend “The Real Truth” but still not understand us, and be wilfully ignorant of the latter, because having The Real Truth is enough for them. They care not to understand others, thus: they’re wilfully ignorant.

    Maybe explained in that light, in that context, you might proudly be wilfully ignorant of what you perceive to be “the incorrect ways of seeing things”, you maybe proudly don’t care to understand what you believe are “Falsehoods”?

    If you’re not too sure what “The Real Truth” is, how on earth can you even contemplate to accuse me of “Falsehoods.”? Are you able to discern the true and the false between two R100 notes, the one with the dot missing on the i of “Tito Mbolweni” and the other with the dot intact? If not, you will have financial problems for the rest of your life. Do you get my gist? Come on, you know what the real truth is but you are suppressing it in unrighteousness.

  • 34 Kari // Feb 19, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    But of course true morality can only come when you do the right thing regardless of whether there is a Judge looking over your shoulder or not, not so? There should not need to be laws, courts and punishment to deter people, it should come from within. If you only do what’s right to escape God’s wrath, how morally sound are you really?

    Thomas, you wrote:

    People who steal and kill, think they are answerable or accountable to no one, not even the highest authority of their countries. They are a law unto themselves, and that, young man, is the essence of idolatry.

    That phrase ‘a law unto themselves’ actually takes on a whole different meaning in the Bible.

    “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.”
    Romans 2:14

    It is made clear that even people who are not Christians and who do not know the 10 Commandments, still follow a moral code that must come from elsewhere.

    “So he (Paul) says that people who don’t know anything about God are able to do the right thing on a regular basis. Without having any instructions from God or the Bible, these people are still able from time to tome to live as God created us to lice. For Paul, truth is available to everyone.

    Truth is everywhere, and it is available to everyone.”

    and later

    “The philosoher Arthur Holes is known for saying, ‘All truth is God’s truth.’ It is such a great statement, because what other kind of truth could there be?”

    Rob Bell – Velvet Elvis

    Now whether you believe that intrinsic morality we are born with are written by God or is the product of evolution, you have to admit that morality is available to everyone and that one certainly don’t need the Commandments, a Judge or a fear of eternal punishment in order to live a moral life.

  • 35 Kari // Feb 19, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Please excuse the typo’s and grammatical errors, I should really start using a Word Processor!

  • 36 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Thomas:

    If you’re not too sure what “The Real Truth” is, how on earth can you even contemplate to accuse me of “Falsehoods.”?

    Um, that illustrates what I mean by you simply not understanding me… Let me try again:

    I did not accuse you of “falsehoods”. I was saying, in your eyes, *we* believe falsehoods. And I was suggesting maybe you have no interest in understanding these things that you believe to be falsehoods, for you only care about the truth you have.

    That’s a re-cap, I think I said it better in my previous comment. If you go back and try again, maybe my (unclear?) communication can be understood better.

    If you’re unable to understand what I’m trying to say, there’s no point in me saying anything to you, so I’m hoping you can go back and reread and try to understand.

    Amanda, again, please tell me you understood better than Thomas did?

  • 37 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    (And suggest what I did wrong to be so hard to understand? It *must* be possible to communicate in a way that’s more easily understood for those coming from “your” perspective? Thomas’ perspective, e.g.?)

  • 38 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Ah, gotcha, on further reflection on the text, I’ve discovered the ambiguity:

    Maybe explained in that light, in that context, you might proudly be wilfully ignorant of what you perceive to be “the incorrect ways of seeing things”, you maybe proudly don’t care to understand what you believe are “Falsehoods”?

    How you understood the last clause, “you maybe proudly don’t care to understand what you believe are “Falsehoods”?”

    -> “you believe falsehoods, and you proudly don’t care to understand that that is the case”. That is not what I meant, but I see how it can be seen that way, my apologies for ambiguous writing.

    Here’s how I meant it:

    -> you believe that *we* believe falsehoods, and you happily and proudly are disinterested in understanding such falsehoods. (i.e. Why would you need to understand our falsehoods if you know The Truth).

    Can you see how the second interpretation fits into what I wrote? Does this second interpretation seem correct to you, does it describe the kind of “ignorance” that you’re proud to have? (In much the same manner as we’re all probably proud to be ignorant of what it feels like to kill someone.)

  • 39 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    That phrase ‘a law unto themselves’ actually takes on a whole different meaning in the Bible.

    You have confirmed what I have been trying to convey. Man is a moral being simply because God has written His do’s and do not’s on their consciences and not because their moral attributes evolved with them during the course of millions or billions of years. You quoted from Romans. Allow me to do the same:

    The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

    Now, being a law unto oneself may have a negative or positive influence on man’s actions. Paul was actually scolding the Jews for their exclusivity in thinking they had sole rights to God because of the Law. The Jews prided themselves in the fact that they, unlike the Gentiles, really knew God because they had the Law and His revelations. Not so, said Paul. The Gentiles may not have had all the blessings of the Law and His special revelations bestowed on them, but they knew what it meant to do the right things and very often did those right things. Note carefully, Paul did not say that the Gentiles always did the right things perfectly and unceasingly. In Fact, Paul’s entire discourse in Romans was to prove to the Jews that all – Jews and Gentiles alike – have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There are no differences between the Jews and the Gentiles for both need Christ to save them from the righteous judgments and wrath of God.

    But of course true morality can only come when you do the right thing regardless of whether there is a Judge looking over your shoulder or not, not so? There should not need to be laws, courts and punishment to deter people, it should come from within. If you only do what’s right to escape God’s wrath, how morally sound are you really?

    I have bad news for you. The person you used to assert your above statement is the very same person who said the very opposite. Please allow me once again to quote from Paul’s Romans.

    Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

    Ok, that was a rather longish quote. Please forgive me Hugo. Kari, I hope you can see that Paul was not teaching the necessity for upholding the Law but that the Law was given to show mankind how utterly sinful any conceivable sin against God actually was and still is. In fact, Paul tried his level best to keep the Law. When he tried to do good he noticed that even his best works usually ended up in something bad. “Woe unto me, I am undone. I cannot please God in any of my endeavors to please Him” is another way of transcribing his word “O wretched man that I am!” The wonderful discovery Paul made was to acknowledge that there is nothing we can do to live a moral and upright life without Jesus Christ. And this is exactly what Christ meant when He said “Without Me you can do nothing” –zilch, zero. Believe me you need Jesus Christ every single moment of your life and if you do not already acknowledge that, isn’t it time to ponder the possibility thereof for a teeny-weeny moment?

    “The philosoher Arthur Holes is known for saying, ‘All truth is God’s truth.’ It is such a great statement, because what other kind of truth could there be?”
    Rob Bell – Velvet Elvis

    If all truth were God’s truth this blog engineered by our distinguished friend, Hugo van der Merwe, would have been completely redundant.

    Not to worry! Your typos and grammatical errors prove that you are a human with high moral attributes. I am referring to your willingness to apologize and make amends. Chimps do not have that ability. Please do not focus on my last remark but rather hone in on my long discourse on Paul. Thank you.

  • 40 Amanda // Feb 19, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    @ Hugo

    You seem to be under the impression that your rebellion is somehow original and that it therefore has some merit. It does not. If you do not believe the Bible, then you are still a lost sinner and not a saved sinner. What is unconscionable is that you and your friend, Ds. Cobus are bringing your heresies to the church.

    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2Pe 2:1-3)

    These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2Pe 2:17-22)

    The Bible warns about you, Hugo. Read it and repent. Do you really want to be a sign of the end times?

  • 41 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    @ Hugo

    you believe that *we* believe falsehoods, and you happily and proudly are disinterested in understanding such falsehoods. (i.e. Why would you need to understand our falsehoods if you know The truth).

    Ah! your English has improved quite considerably.

    I understood you perfectly. You may have seen my remark “If all truth were God’s truth this blog engineered by our distinguished friend, Hugo van der Merwe, would have been completely redundant.” in my rebuttal to Kari.

    Truth is not a perception, an idea, a figment of the imagination, the result of lofty studies, etc. Truth is a Person and His Name is Jesus Christ.

    How would you interpret His words:

    You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free

    To be able to understand falsehoods, your’s or mine, it is of the utmost importance to know the Truth. It is impossible to discern falsehood if you do not know the Truth. Hence my little example of the two R100 notes but you chose not to comment on that.

  • 42 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Thomas, Amanda:

    How would you interpret His words:

    You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free

    …in pretty much the opposite way you guys interpret it. Much of the warnings you guys give me, are precisely the warnings I’d like to give you. I’ve mentioned this before. From my viewpoint, it looks to me like you guys are stuck in a similar kind of religious tradition that Jesus challenged. And you don’t have The Whole Truth. Knowledge of the Truth would make you free from the oppressive religion you’re stuck in. (This is my interpretation of those words. You asked.)

    Existence can’t be self-contradictory (beyond the puzzle of mere existence), so if your truth depends on beliefs that go contrary to the evidence, something’s wrong. All the evidence in science points to a universe and a planet that’s billions of years old. Any truth that is explicitly in contradiction to the evidence presented, the “book of creation”, which we read by use of our senses, by use of science, is necessarily then something I consider false. It doesn’t match the evidence provided.

    Unless the evidence is lies, is written by a liar. The Christian tradition attributes the “book” that is the universe to the Hand of God, whereas the Bible was written by the hand of man, even if inspired. So if the Bible says the earth is flat (as could be interpreted in a couple of places, one of which is the idea of being able to see the whole earth if you’re high enough, another place, talking about the four corners of the earth, etc), while physical evidence/creation provides me with evidence that it is round, I accept the latter “book” to be more authoritative. This is a simplified analogy to explain what I mean with regards to science and evidence, much like you’re talking about R100 notes…

    In exactly the same fashion, I see your interpretation of the Bible advocating that The Universe (creation) is a lie, while the evidence written down all around us, in the earth, in the universe, unanimously and without contradiction indicates the universe is billions of years old, and the planet too. So your interpretation of the Bible can most certainly not be considered *factually* correct, unless you’re arguing that the evidence scattered all around throughout all of creation, cannot be trusted. Is that not a blasphemous suggestion, questioning the honesty of the Hand That Creates And Sustains? (God as the ground-of-being, in Tillich’s words.) Oh, “and destroys”, but that kind of Trinitarian understanding sounds positively Hindu. ;-)

    So quite apart from my argument about “understanding” above, which I tried to separate from any argument about “what the truth is”, because they’re independent thoughts,

    I consider you two to be false prophets that are aiming to deceive the children by teaching them to not trust the evidence that is all around them. And that kind of teachings lead to war, both on Islamic front and on Christian front, as well as in politics in a more abstract fashion. Those kinds of teachings bring war and destruction, and would mean the end of us all.

    There, I said it, that’s how I feel about all this. Is there much point in hurling the same accusations to and fro? No, I don’t think there is. So I’ll happily back down. Maybe citing DNFTT in the process.

  • 43 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    And the converse w.r.t. freedom is interesting, as suggested by Erich Fromm: in “Fear of Freedom” – humans don’t like freedom of choice, because with it comes responsibility. So by committing to authoritarian moralities, master-slave kind of relationships with a cult for example, or within a fundie tradition, anything like that, they find freedom from freedom. Another kind of freedom to be had, so yes, I can appreciate the other kind of freedom that can be offered by an authoritarian tradition. I just consider it unchristian… because my interpretations line up with this:

    http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/index.php?ct=store.details&pid=V00556

    (Note to others, I’ll blog Peter’s vids later, that will be a better time to discuss the ideas presented in them.)

  • 44 Amanda // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    @ Hugo

    From my viewpoint, it looks to me like you guys are stuck in a similar kind of religious tradition that Jesus challenged.

    Please elaborate as to what exactly Jesus Christ challenged if it were not self-righteousness?

    Those kinds of teachings bring war and destruction, and would mean the end of us all.

    And there it is, right out in the open. Thank you, Hugo. Maybe your one world government and one world religion is the answer for you to live out your life in peace and safety. Check The Plan. It is way ahead of you.

  • 45 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Earlier we were discussing crime and laws… I just saw a video clip “in defence of atheists” (not arguing for atheism) that pointed out some stats:

    Christians make up 75% of the US population.
    Christians make up 75% of their prison population.
    Citing: “Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1997″

    Atheists make up 10% of the US population.
    Atheists only make up 0.2% of the prison population.
    Citing the same source.

    Not that I think much of the rest of the vid:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdVucvo-kDU&feature=channel_page
    …since I intepret things differently. See e.g. my nuanced approach to The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”.

    And this doesn’t really contribute much to this discussion, due to the nature of this discussion. (Namely, not about living more godly lives, that’s not what A+T care about, they claim: you don’t have to live a godly life, you need only believe what they believe, *only then* do you not go to hell.)

  • 46 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Hmmm…:

    Please elaborate as to what exactly Jesus Christ challenged if it were not self-righteousness?

    I’m not interested in arguing about who is self-righteous and who isn’t.

  • 47 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Earlier we were discussing crime and laws… I just saw a video clip “in defence of atheists” (not arguing for atheism) that pointed out some stats:

    Christians make up 75% of the US population.
    Christians make up 75% of their prison population.
    Citing: “Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1997″

    Atheists make up 10% of the US population.
    Atheists only make up 0.2% of the prison population.
    Citing the same source.

    Christians make up 75% of the US population? That’s about the same stats for South Africa – 70 to 75%. Have you never read Paul’s description of the last days?

    People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

    Yes! there are many Christians in jail at the moment. Most of them are in China who have been incarcerated for their faith in Jesus Christ.

    Heb 11:36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.

    By the by, Hugo, the followers of Antichrist will be known as Christians.

  • 48 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    @Hugo

    And this doesn’t really contribute much to this discussion, due to the nature of this discussion. (Namely, not about living more godly lives, that’s not what A+T care about, they claim: you don’t have to live a godly life, you need only believe what they believe, *only then* do you not go to hell.)

    That’s a blatant lie which makes you a blatant liar. I have never said or even insinuated in the very slightest that you do not need to live a godly life. In any event, you seem to think you are much better equipped than Paul and the other disciples who acknowledged that it is impossible to live a godly life without Jesus Christ. He Himself once said:

    Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

    “Nothing” means “nothing,” Hugo, and that includes a godly life. Are you abiding in Jesus Christ who frequently warned about the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth? Ah, but of course, this is not the Jesus you are following. You are following a benevolent Jesus who is eventually going to allow the entire human race into His Kingdom

  • 49 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    @Hugo

    Thomas, Amanda:

    How would you interpret His words:

    You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

    Forget it, Hugo. You will never be able to interpret those words correctly unless you acknowledge and declare that Jesus Christ is the only Truth, the only Way to God and the only One who gives eternal life.

    (I hope my blockquotes work. If not, would you be so kind as to fix it for me?)

  • 50 Thomas // Feb 19, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Hugo @ 46

    The very core of self-righteousness is to say: “I do not need Jesus Christ to save me from my sins and lost status. I can make it on my own to His Kingdom.” To them He will say:

    “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

    Its as simple as that.

  • 51 Hugo // Feb 19, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Fixed your #49 blockquotes for ya. Every open tag needs a close tag.

    Sorry about the silliness of suggesting “don’t need to live a godly life”, I should know full well that the idea is that a godly life flows directly from being in the right frame of mind: a “true believer in Jesus” is not supposed to be able to live an ungodly life: that’d be a sign of their beliefs actually not being right. So my comment #45 was very poorly phrased. (I incorrectly suggested A+T suggest “you don’t have to live a godly life, you need only believe…”. Like I just said: the godly life is supposed to flow from that belief.)

    The prison stats were USA stats, not global. China doesn’t feature in them.

  • 52 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 20, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Ben’Jammin, did you pick up on Thomas also confirming the God as Meaning Assigner aspect of “a god”?

    Looking back, I can’t find the posts where we were really arguing about this to see exactly what our positions were.

    Did you pick up that for both Amanda and Thomas, if the meaning / morality assigner is not God (super-powerful creator of the universe), then there is no real meaning or morality. That has to count for something. :)

  • 53 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 20, 2009 at 8:52 am

    You have confirmed what I have been trying to convey. Man is a moral being simply because God has written His do’s and do not’s on their consciences and not because their moral attributes evolved with them during the course of millions or billions of years.

    Thomas, you cannot make this statement without substantiating it with evidence. Otherwise it is an argument from assertion.

    @Hugo #45

    I’ve seen those stats before. Although I think they are interesting, I don’t think the original authors controlled for peer pressure in a prison setting. It is quite possible for prisoners to be pressured into belonging to the majority group…which obviously would affect the results.

    @Amanda, Thomas
    A question. How old do you believe the Earth is?

  • 54 Thomas // Feb 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Kenneth Oberlander @ 53

    You may recollect that I addressed my post to Kari for the simple reason that she at least seems to believe that the book of Romans was written by Paul and that Paul was a true follower of Jesus Christ. Now, knowing full well that you do not accept Scripture as evidence, I will never try to convince you from Scripture. It is a futile exercise and sadly so because it reflects your inability to understand Scripture.

    A question. How old do you believe the Earth is?

    What evidence do you have that our earth is billions of years old and, by the way, don’t forget to take the Great Flood into account.

  • 55 Thomas // Feb 20, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Fixed your #49 blockquotes for ya. Every open tag needs a close tag.

    Sorry about the silliness of suggesting “don’t need to live a godly life”, I should know full well that the idea is that a godly life flows directly from being in the right frame of mind: a “true believer in Jesus” is not supposed to be able to live an ungodly life: that’d be a sign of their beliefs actually not being right. So my comment #45 was very poorly phrased. (I incorrectly suggested A+T suggest “you don’t have to live a godly life, you need only believe…”. Like I just said: the godly life is supposed to flow from that belief.)

    The prison stats were USA stats, not global. China doesn’t feature in them.

    Do you have a smiley that depicts sarcasm. Usse it without compunction!

    So Now the USA is the all-in-one barometer for what true Christianity looks like. Preposterous, my young friend!

  • 56 Thomas // Feb 20, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Hugo,

    Thanks for fixing my blockquotes.

  • 57 Kari // Feb 20, 2009 at 11:38 am

    You may recollect that I addressed my post to Kari for the simple reason that she at least seems to believe that the book of Romans was written by Paul and that Paul was a true follower of Jesus Christ. Now, knowing full well that you do not accept Scripture as evidence, I will never try to convince you from Scripture. It is a futile exercise and sadly so because it reflects your inability to understand Scripture.

    For the record, I don’t accept Scripture as ‘evidence’ either, that is circular reasoning. You can’t use the Bible to substantiate something that it asserts itself. Besides, that isn’t that the point of believing… if there was real evidence there would be no need for faith.

    What evidence do you have that our earth is billions of years old and, by the way, don’t forget to take the Great Flood into account.

    The scientific fields of: astronomy, biology, geology, genetics, archeology, paleontology, cosmology… it all points to the same conclusion – that the earth is billions of years old. I suspect you have not studied any of these.

    So Now the USA is the all-in-one barometer for what true Christianity looks like. Preposterous, my young friend!

    Now where did Hugo ever say that? The USA has a surprisingly large population who shares your beliefs though, 29% of the country describes themselves as Evangelical. A good number of them are in prison too though, or should be. Kent Hovind, Ted Haggard and Sarah Palin springs to mind.

  • 58 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 20, 2009 at 11:56 am

    @Thomas

    It is a futile exercise and sadly so because it reflects your inability to understand Scripture.

    The Bible is a Rorschach blot. You can see pretty much what you want into it. It is long enough, self-contradictory enough, and ambiguous enough for this to be a virtual certainty. Thirty thousand plus sects of Christianity supports this.

    What evidence do you have that our earth is billions of years old and, by the way, don’t forget to take the Great Flood into account.

    Please tell me you meant to insert a sarcasm smiley for this particular gem. If not, do you have any idea how much evidence there is? As Kari said, there isn’t a single field of science that is incongruent with an ancient age for the Earth.

  • 59 Hazard // Feb 20, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Kenneth, unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many times you say it, but there’s always someone that believes the earth is flat… irrespective of the evidence. You can’t argue with a brick wall. Any body who denies evolutionist theory has to be as close minded as a brick wall. In fact it’s not going to be called the Theory of Evolution anymore, but the Law of. If it hasn’t been altered already.

  • 60 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 20, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    @Hazard

    You can’t argue with a brick wall.

    You can try, if you’re hopelessly idealistic! I have been told I have that particular moral failing. And a major infection of SIWOTI syndrome.

    In fact it’s not going to be called the Theory of Evolution anymore, but the Law of. If it hasn’t been altered already.

    It will remain the theory of evolution. The history is a bit muddled, and there are a fair number of exceptions, but generally the only Laws in science that are accepted as Laws are the Laws of thermodynamics. The case for the latter can at least be justified, because it can be argued that these are truly fundamental. I’d prefer a degree of consistency, myself. Just as with cell theory, the theory of special and general relativity etc. etc., a theory is a cohesive interpretation of data with great explanatory and predictive power. It is the most certain we can ever be in science.

    Of course, the word “theory” in science has a very different meaning to the colloquial understanding of the term. I’m sure Hugo has addressed this in previous posts, but it bears repeating.

  • 61 Hazard // Feb 20, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Just a little bit of info about “Great Flood “theories. In layman’s terms… which I like using, because nobady can say I was too complex for them.Floods are very damaging events, and as such they leave evidence… yes EVIDENCE… of their happenings. If the Great Flood happened as the bible says, there would have been a worldwide sediment layer of the same age over the planet. There is none. Every culture has the Flood myth in their folklore.. NOT because it happened at the same time, but through any given period in the last 10 000 years, there has been a catastrophic flood on all the continents at some time or another. So the Great Flood isn’t a “Truth”. It is just another ambiguity in the bible that, as Kenneth says. given time, will be a certainty.

    Another thing for those individuals who love quoting the bible as their supportive source. It’s is not an authorative work. It has no relevance in history. The work is contradictory, it’s time line is horribly crooked, if not blatantly false. A figure like Jesus would have had a marked impact on the politics of the time. Romans and Egyptians kept records of the time. Rameses the great lived a long and fulfilling life and did not perish in the waters of the Red Sea. It was impossible for one million Israelites to flee Egypt because that civilisation could not maintain a slave population of that magnitude a the time. Plus to flee to the land of Canaan.. well at that time was a territory of Egypt, so they wouldn’t be able to flee from Egypt. Merely run straight into another Egyptian stronghold. Why didn’t they run into the Sahara, where conditions were harsher and would be guaranteed that any army that followed would perish. As for 1 million people wandering the desert for 40 years? Have you seen the ecological damage that would do to an area, just to forage? There wouldn’t be enough food to forage for a group of people that size, that’s why armies march with a provision train. Where do I stop! A lot is just simple logic. You don’t have to be genius to ask these questions… I certainly don’t view myself as one… just have an enquiring mind. How come we have more records on figures like Julius Caesar and Alexander than we have on Jesus? Because they were leaders and the victors write history? Then how come historical threats to Rome, like Spartacus, Hanibal, and Attila, are meticulously noted? Nothing in Roman records mention Jesus or the crucifixion except for records of a growing Christian movement? Even the diary of Pontius Pilate, who was retired in disgrace, did not mention Jesus.

    No… if you want to quote and substantiate your answer or statement, don’t do it from the bible. Bring real proof.

  • 62 Hazard // Feb 20, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Kenneth, I agree with what you say on ToE, but rumour has it that it’s going to join that select group of laws. Of course, I must reiterate my self, and say rumour has it. Lol

  • 63 Hugo // Feb 20, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    English might have thrown away die/der/das a long time ago, but we still have he/she to wonder about / get wrong. Not that I suppose that matters much, we’re egalitarian around here. ;-)

    @Thomas #55:

    Do you have a smiley that depicts sarcasm. Usse it without compunction!

    I wasn’t sarcastic, I was pretty serious, thinking back to what I used to believe, as well as how a faith (in general) is supposed to work. Also to the Shofar Bible School I’m listening to, and taking notes on. Beliefs *can* change your inside in a way that it then flows into your behaviour. So again, I was serious and sincere, no smiley, no sarcasm.

    On the USA stats, Kenneth’s comment hints at some of the most convincing ideas as to why they’re really not of that much interest. Also, correlation != causation, even if it were a fact that atheists are more law abiding, it still doesn’t prove it’s a worldview that encourages law-abiding behaviour. Could be a common source for both good behaviour and atheism, and based on comments here, we have some evidence that would suggest not everyone has the necessary memes to ensure a good and stable non-authoritarian morality.

    Kari #57, c’mon, Sarah Palin doesn’t belong in jail. Maybe you’re missing a winky… ;-)

    Thomas, I’m pretty certain the only people commenting here that consider the Bible as absolute evidence like you do, would be you and Amanda. You two are the only explicitly young earth creationists that have commented… this whole month I think. Unless I’m forgetting some hit-and-run. Everyone else here have minds that are open to real evidence, appreciating the importance of scientific understanding in our contemporary culture. I’m hoping (optimism! ;-) ) your minds might also be open to learning new things? You will have to, if you have any desire of keeping up with the youth (generalised).

    OK, time to get nit-picky with the non-theistic comments, because certain ideas must not be propagated, being hyperbolic and only acceptable in certain contexts. Harzard #59:

    Any body who denies evolutionist theory has to be as close minded as a brick wall.

    Hyperbole. Depending on what connotations/meanings you load on the “deny” word there. There are seriously people that simply don’t know, or have enough of a lack of knowledge. “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge!” (Hosea 4) I don’t want the fact that many present like brick walls have a negative effect on our way of communicating with those that are still eager to learn.

    I like Kenneth’s idealism, though I would recommend he be careful with that deadly SIWOTI-syndrome. ;)

    Of course, the word “theory” in science has a very different meaning to the colloquial understanding of the term. I’m sure Hugo has addressed this in previous posts, but it bears repeating.

    Eish, in fact, I haven’t addressed that one yet! It’s certainly been addressed in many places all over, but not yet here. (Hmmm, a glossary is high up on the mengelmoes-list, easier to implement because it doesn’t depend on porting over existing data.)

    On Hazard’s comment, I must respond to my own little pet-peeve with certain atheistic circles:

    How come we have more records on figures like Julius Caesar and Alexander than we have on Jesus? Because they were leaders and the victors write history? Then how come historical threats to Rome, like Spartacus, Hanibal, and Attila, are meticulously noted?

    C’mon, the role they played was very, very different. In language/word-choice that assumes a historical Jesus existed: Jesus was a turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy, a nomadic rabbi in ancient Judaism, the waves he made (or was reported to make) were of the memetic sort, new ideas that sparked a movement that eventually grew into what we know today. All the others you mentioned had military might. It is surely silly to expect similar evidence for both. That said, it is worthwhile to emphasize how little solid evidence we do have, and I *will* run a series on historians’ angle on early Christianity (primary source of inspiration will be Philip Harland’s podcast, probably: easy access to everyone that’s interested in joining, kinda book-club-like, and I have the desire to listen to them all).

  • 64 Hazard // Feb 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Hugo@63

    The notable difference is that Jesus didn’t send a pillaging force into/to Rome. But (there’s always a but), according to the bible… he wasn’t a mere nomad that sparked off ideas that grew into what we know today, although he did lead a nomadic life. There were THOUSANDS of people that experienced the fish and loaves miracle. That’s not the effect you’re going to have as a wise pilgrim merely going from village to village. But the point I was making, wasn’t about military means… it was the impact thereof. A person who made such an impact that would have people lining the streets of Jerusalem to his crucifiction would have been recorded, and the Roman presence would have sat up and noted any potential rebellion in the naming of an individual as “King of the Jews”. Especially after events like the Spartacus rebellion. This wasn’t a sideshow… this was a momentous time if you review the political implications. Sure, I don’t expect the lowdown on every aspect of his life, but the impact he would have had leaves a very glaring absence in history… except for the bible.

    Yup… you’re being nit picky. When I made the statement concerning “denying”, I meant it in the light that they are being totally close minded and obviously on the intellectual level of being able to understand i.e. deliberately ignoring facts. You get ignorance and you get obstinance. It’s obviously a general statement, but I’ve never had time for people who try make 2+2=7 “just because the bible said so”.

  • 65 Thomas // Feb 20, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Kenneth Oberlander @ 60

    According to many occult disciplines and especially in Masonry man is only at the beginning of his evolutionary journey.

    W.L Wilmer, a distinguished authority on Masonry, says in his book “The Meaning of Masonry:

    “The evolution of man into superman—(see, we’re not just talking about evolving in the human beings, but evolving upward to godhood.)—the evolution of man into superman was always the purpose of the ancient mysteries.” . . . “Man who has sprung from the earth and developed through the lower kingdoms of nature to his present rational state has yet to complete his evolution by becoming a godlike being, and unifying his conscience with the omniscient.”

    Mankind is therefore in the process of evolving even higher on the evolutionary ladder. Listen to what Darwin himself said:

    “ . . . man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen to the very summit of the organic scale, and the fact that his having risen, (instead of having been aboriginally placed there, you know, that would be by creation you would call it), may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the distant future.” (From his book “The Descent of Man”)

    Doesn’t this prove that the evolution theory is more of a religion than a science?

    Robert Jastrow, one of the world’s leading astronomers, founder and director for many years of the Goddard Space Institute that sent Pioneer and Voyager, out into space, said:

    “Evolution could have been going on, on some planets ten billions years longer than on planet earth, and those beings would be as far beyond man on the evolutionary scale as man is beyond a worm.” . . . “They would seem like gods to us, they would have such powers.” . . . “Some of them could have evolved beyond the need of bodies; they were what old-fashioned religious people call spirit beings.”

    Here again we find the notion that man is evolving into godlike beings who ultimately would have no need to be morally accountable to God. Is there any connection between evolution and reincarnation? If so, it would again confirm that the science of evolution is actually a religion.

  • 66 Thomas // Feb 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    My blockquotes are wrrong again. Please fix.

  • 67 Hazard // Feb 20, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Thomas, I would disagree. Robert Jastrow’s comment, with respect, may well be used in the wrong context or out of ignorance. What is a spirit being? What is a spirit made of? If it can physically hurt or interact with the world around it, then in turn, it can be felt or hurt? If so, what substance is it composed of? Or are spirits made from nutrino’s that float around us?
    How would they speak to us? They have no mouths… and don’t bring up telepathy or telekinetic powers, because you’ll just open another can of worms.

    We are mortal beings, and thinking about evolving ourselves to have longer lifespans, maybe even our forms altering further doesn’t mean we advocate are even are bound to embrace religion. That , simply trying to look up the evolutionary ladder, is no harm or intent in that alone. I for one, believe us to embrace cybernetics in the future, but that doesn’t mean I believe there’s a master CPU in the sky, or that I’m going to become one. I think it’s just vanity from our human makeup that strives to be dominant, that some see that we will eventually hit a singularity where we view ourselves as godlike. After all, ‘God made us in his image” strikes such a concordant note (said tongue in cheek) for the capabilities of mankind.

    What powers would these beings from another planet have? I can agree that technology would be so advanced as to be incomprehesible by us, but man has enough knowledge now, to realise that “magic” does not exist, and the laws of science can’t be crossed or changed. That we simply lack the technology for such wonders, would be apparent, yes. But by no means could we change the properties of this universe.

    So, irrespective of Jastrow’s intent, such supposition is made without foundation. If he was earnest, then he made a pie in the sky statement.. wishful thinking at best, but hardly to be described as “scientifically” religious, unless he’s on a pseudo science that creationists love thumbsucking out of nothing.

  • 68 Hugo // Feb 21, 2009 at 2:36 am

    @Ben-Jammin #52:

    Ben’Jammin, did you pick up on Thomas also confirming the God as Meaning Assigner aspect of “a god”?

    Looking back, I can’t find the posts where we were really arguing about this to see exactly what our positions were.

    Did you pick up that for both Amanda and Thomas, if the meaning / morality assigner is not God (super-powerful creator of the universe), then there is no real meaning or morality. That has to count for something.

    Hmmm, that is actually also the point I’m making, this discussion is probably going to boil down to a nuance. Let’s see if I can sketch it out:

    Those coming from an authoritarian morality relying on an “ultimate meaning assigner” are indeed so dependent upon that particular notion, that without it, all they see is nihilism (moral nihilism).

    My argument about “God as Meaning Assigner” and trying to identify what each of us (including non-theists)’ “God concept” is in that context, is precisely about trying to understand and explain alternative meaning assigners to the young-earth-creationist Judeo-Christian one. I have one friend in particular who seeks, rationally so, for a meaning assigner he feel he can sensibly accept and follow. He feels he won’t be a good person without some decent reason to be good, and goes looking for it. He’s looking for a meaning assigner. In similar fashion, I suggest that fundies unable to let go of their particular young-earth-fundie understanding of “God” need to better understand where and how others find meaning, find God. (Sorry about hammering on certain words here…)

    What you are pointing out, is that no other god would satisfy them, the only one they find valid, is their particular conservative-Judeo-Christian notion, and they would thus rather cling to that demonstrably incorrect notion than have something else.

    So you’re keen on explaining/describing that people don’t need a god to have a moral, meaningful life. You possibly take the atheistic-existentialist angle of “we create our own meaning”. On the other side, on this site I’m typically peddling more of a theistic exisentialism (see this simplified table for a very useful framing for the way I think/communicate), and proposing the seeking of a genuine God (intentionally choosing “genuine” rather than “real”, as the latter has too many connotations with regards to a material existence, a Lah existence, when I’m talking more on the Meh level). It seems I really should look into more of Søren Kierkegaard’s work, please check his major premises. Love… With particular emphasis on the conditional clause: For the most part, Kierkegaard equates God with Love.

    I can also build a philosophical defence for this particular stance with regards to metaphysics: I can draw on both the universe’s very existence and on the nature of gregarious, cooperative, co-existing species in evolutionary processes in sketching out this metaphysical stance. It would require a lot of verbosity (as the intellectual-noodling that is philosophy always does), especially in efforts to unpack and sidestep or defend against (self-)accusations of anthropomorphising it all.

    So that sketches out the frame. The verbosity needed means it is impractical to go much further than that right here, right now. So I’ll get back to our little discussion (which I’d rather not call a debate, lest it be misunderstood as brutally-seeking-a-final-perfect-answer rather than friends engaging in a friendly grappling with their differing ideas because that’s what friends do)…

    I’m sticking to my theistic language then, still hoping I won’t cause too much distress, bear in mind I’m talking about my meaing for these words, rather than the fundies’:

    Good and moral atheists also know God, they also have an understanding of God. Their focus on the “God of the Philosophers” (cite: my prior post) as the authoritative definition of “God” means they insist, in their language, to not call it that. Fair enough, I understand, but I nevertheless continue in my language:

    Which language chosen with which to speak of the divine, of what I call God, is more effective for different humans, remains to be seen. Some fundies are going to respond better to your language choice, some are going to respond better to mine. If they meet the genuine God (NB: post-theistic God-concept) by either means, I’m quite happy about it. If anyone keeps on knocking down other people’s ways of talking about the divine, on the grounds that “only their language is correct“, I’m going to continue being pretty sad about it.

    And this blog will attempt to continue exploring that which I call the divine / that which I call God. I stand by the idea that everyone sees a different part of God, and the best way to see a bigger picture is to see it through others’ eyes as well.

    McLaren had something of a diagram in Finding Faith that suggested each of our God concepts overlaps with “The Truth”, to a greater or lesser degree. But no-one has the whole picture, and everyone has some incorrect ideas as well. And our ideas differ… so what can we learn from others, aiming to learn from what they have right, and in the process also hoping to reduce what we and they have wrong.

    Hmmm, after all that theistic-speak, I feel a bit dirty… ;-) I wish I could remember off the top of my head which theologian it was that commented on dreaming of the day when we could again speak of “God” without being embarrassed about it. (Embarrassed by those that practise what some might label “bad faith”, and have defined “God” in a most embarrassing way.)


    Now I have a pretty good idea what the fundie reaction to this will be (having come from a fundie background as well as bumped against Amanda and Thomas enough already), so this section addresses that, specifically:

    There could be Thomas’ same-old moaning about our evil “one world religion”. I find it ironic, when they stand for “there is only one true religion, there is only one God”. Rephrase my comment above from another angle, cast myself as a fundie, and they’d be saying “YES!” to the exact same thoughts. It’s all about the word choice… If everyone “has the ten commandments written on their hearts” and “feels the same God-shaped hole”, surely everyone’s religions/ideas in seeking the answer to that hole, would develop in a direction that has something to do with that “one and only God”?

    Then there’s also the fundie-insistence on using a particular Western label for it. “Jesus Christ”. Does a rose by any other name not also smell as sweet? Can I call Jesus, Yeshua? or Joshua? or “YHWH rescues!”? Interesting, from Wikipedia:

    Etymology

    Main articles: Yeshua and Yeshua (name)

    “Jesus” (IPA: /ˈdʒizʊs/) is a transliteration, occurring in a number of languages and based on the Latin Iesus, of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs), itself a Hellenisation of the Hebrew יהושע (Yehoshua) or Hebrew-Aramaic ישוע (Yeshua ), (Joshua), meaning “YHWH rescues”. “YHWH” is the name of God in the Hebrew tradition, often rendered as “the LORD” in English.

    Does the particular name really matter? Does God speak English? Or Afrikaans? Or some human language? That any other way of referring to Jesus would have us go to hell, for we’re not following “Jesus Christ” pronounced in a Western English fashion? Of course not…

    Now the idea that you can only know Jesus if you know the precise details of the story as described in a particular way… isn’t the suggestion that God cannot communicate about Jesus without using the Bible a rather blasphemous notion to those that believe in the traditional omnipotent concept?

    Ugh, I’m already tired of this line of arguing, I can too well predict the kind of response I’m going to get. So instead I’m inadvertently going to help them along by again talking to the atheists:

    Jesus is indeed an incarnation (in terms of the narratives we have, the understanding and stories that were penned by the authors of the four gospels, whoever they were) of my understanding of “God”.

    Whether he existed or not (a clause I’m including to avoid Yet Another Half-Assed Historical Jesus Debate, YAHAHJD, since I consider anything short of serious scholarly study half-assed), the stories we have of the man, whether all literal-factual or mostly inspired-by-great-example or whatevah, is the kind of narrative that connects to a particular understanding of what “God” is, that will have you sitting back and saying “truly, he’s the Son of God!” (add the note that rabbi’s are considered the sons of God — Jesus was a rabbi of course) and the post-Easter understanding of what he represents, from a certain understanding of what God is (an understanding that I’d personally label Christian, but that label brings so much misunderstanding as well), it certainly makes sense to me to confess: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life — a highly theological statement that needs contextualised unpacking for full appreciation of what it means to certain Christians,…


    OK, now that will surely kick off a veritable shit-storm. *sigh*. There’s a basic idea I’m trying to communicate above. Anyone that seems to me to show genuine interest to engage with the primary idea I attempted to communicate, I will respond to. Anyone else taking issue with some shallow (mis-)understanding of any particular tidbit, I simply don’t have time to respond to. A simple idea becomes this kind of verbose mess precisely because there’s so many diverse angles people approach this with, all present and reading here at the same time. To answer a previous question from either Amanda or Thomas: that is why certain things are best talked about within a particular “faith community”, namely people that share the same language for talking about the divine. It avoids getting embroiled in… I dare say irrelevant… arguments.

    And yay for more verbosity because of the kind of people I have here: yes, the arguments are not irrelevant, depending on what you’re measuring relevance by. Comprehend what I mean by it, in what context I consider it irrelevant, and we might have an interesting conversation.

    Does anyone still wonder why I so often end up becoming so verbose… *sigh*. I certainly wonder, often, why I continue to try.

  • 69 Hugo // Feb 21, 2009 at 2:43 am

    @Thomas, #65:

    Doesn’t this prove that the evolution theory is more of a religion than a science?

    It most certainly and absolutely does not prove anything of the sort.

    If one or two individuals go ahead and create some kind of pseudo-religion-thingy based on evolution, shall we… um… call that Evolutionism, to resonate with creationism seminars, then that’s their pseudo-religion-thingy. And it has absolutely and totally nothing to do with the scientific theory of evolution. The latter is verified fact, as far as science provides us with useful technology and medicine. The former (any potential pseudo-religion constructed on it) is absolutely and completely irrelevant.

    Yay for tautologies…

  • 70 Hugo // Feb 21, 2009 at 4:42 am

    While we’re on evolution as well, another interesting link (there’s a billion of them), listing 25 points “Every School Board Member Should Know About Evolution”:

    http://www.acandidworld.net/2009/02/12/happy-darwin-day-what-every-school-board-member-should-know-about-evolution/

    I’m sure many of us will happily discuss any of those points here, if there is a sincere interest in understanding them better.

  • 71 Hazard // Feb 21, 2009 at 5:31 am

    Hugo

    What are you taking that you can afford to be so verbose at 2:36 am? I want some! Lol

  • 72 Hazard // Feb 21, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Also… it’s the nature of “hot topics”, i.e. religion, that people really sink their teeth into relevant.. and irrevelant points… s0metimes going round and round in circles to no practical, or determined end.

  • 73 Thomas // Feb 21, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Hugo @ 68

    Why would you be so concerned about a name when you doubt whether the Person with that particular Name ever existed? Think of it, if you hadn’t bejeweled us with your presence, the Name Hugo van de Merwe would have no meaning whatsoever – zilch, zero, nothing.

    Those coming from an authoritarian morality relying on an “ultimate meaning assigner” are indeed so dependent upon that particular notion, that without it, all they see is nihilism (moral nihilism).

    I can assure you that the non-existence of an “ultimate meaning assigner” is not nihilism but absolute chaos. Do I need to remind you of the hotspots in the world, including your own country, South Africa. Crime is soaring. Are the criminals moral beings who are evolving into beings with even higher morals? Yes! they are moral beings because they are made in the image of God but their sinful nature has marred His moral attributes to the detriment of their own souls.

  • 74 Thomas // Feb 21, 2009 at 9:14 am

    If you don’t mind, please fix all my blockquotes in future.

    Thanx

  • 75 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 21, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    @Thomas

    According to many occult disciplines and especially in Masonry man is only at the beginning of his evolutionary journey.

    This is untrue. Humans have exactly the same length of evolutionary history as every other extant species on this planet. At least 3 billion years of it. Hardly the beginning.

    Mankind is therefore in the process of evolving even higher on the evolutionary ladder

    Aaaargh. This reflects one of the worst misunderstandings of evolution amongst the general public. Evolution isn’t a ladder leading inevitably to us. There is no teleological function to evolution. There is no higher and lower on a scale of evolution somewhere; this is a leftover of the Scala Naturae, with it’s prominent source in theological doctrine. A better metaphor for evolution is a bush, or a tree, not a ladder. Humankind, as a species, is a tiny twig on a tiny branch on an immense tree of life.

    Listen to what Darwin himself said:

    Argument from authority. Darwin was wrong on this point. He isn’t an infallible source, such as you claim your Holy Book to be. He was completely wrong on whale evolution. His explanation of genetics was absurd, and he knew it. He was simply a clever man who had a great idea that corresponds to the evidence in the natural world, nothing more.

    Which leads directly on to your next point:

    Doesn’t this prove that the evolution theory is more of a religion than a science?

    This is ludicrous.

    In what possible way is evolutionary theory a religion? Whom do we worship? What is our god? What is our Holy Book? Whom are our prophets? Where are the buildings whose sole purpose is to worship natural selection? What are our Ten Commandments? Whose authority do we accept absolutely? Where are our proselytisers, and our missionaries? Whom are we tithing? Where is our equivalent of the Vatican, or Mecca, or the Wailing Wall?

    You can look at this from the other side. As a religious person, what hypotheses do you test? What evidence to you gather from the natural world to support or refute your hypotheses? What hypotheses have you abandoned because the data do not support them? How has your evidence (and your hypotheses) been scrutinised and criticised by your peers? How have you handled valid objections to your ideas? How does your hypothesis better fit the data than rival hypotheses do?

    I do this all the time. It’s my job. How does this resemble any religion that you know?

    And again, we can’t prove things in science. I’ve told you this before. We only have evidence for or against hypotheses.

    Here again we find the notion that man is evolving into godlike beings who ultimately would have no need to be morally accountable to God. Is there any connection between evolution and reincarnation? If so, it would again confirm that the science of evolution is actually a religion.

    This is absolute speculation on the part of Robert Jastrow. Not to mention that it is another argument from authority.

    And no, there is no connection between evolution and reincarnation. Because reincarnation has been refuted by science, unless you consider the clonal mechanisms of plants and bdelloid rotifers to be reincarnation. So your point is moot.

  • 76 Hazard // Feb 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Kenneth
    You are so right and I fell into that one. Even understanding evolution, one still ends up using general terms concerning it. Yes, there is no ladder concerning evolution as I was using it in the context of Thomas’ comment. A branch or twig is a more apt description.

  • 77 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Scientific laws are similar to scientific theories in that they are principles that can be used to predict the behavior of the natural world. Both scientific laws and scientific theories are typically well-supported by observations and/or experimental evidence. Usually scientific laws refer to rules for how nature will behave under certain conditions.Scientific theories are more overarching explanations of how nature works and why it exhibits certain characteristics.
    A common misconception is that scientific theories are rudimentary ideas that will eventually graduate into scientific laws when enough data and evidence has been accumulated. A theory does not change into a scientific law with the accumulation of new or better evidence. A theory will always remain a theory, a law will always remain a law.

    That’s my understanding of theory vs. law in science (from Wiki). The NCSE has a similar understanding:

    http://ncseweb.org/evolution/education/definitions-fact-theory-law-scientific-work

  • 78 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 21, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    (see this simplified table for a very useful framing for the way I think/communicate)

    When I listen to the comedy channel on XM, I think of that chart. The comedians can make any topic seem absurd… :)

  • 79 Hugo // Feb 21, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I wonder if one could officially consider many comedians to run their comedy from an Absurdist stance? (To be distinguished from their own views on life.)

    Monty Python is surely absurdism, not so? Do you like Monty Python? I should watch “The Meaning of Life” a second time, I’ve seen each of the other two famous movies twice.

  • 80 Thomas // Feb 25, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Monty Python is surely absurdism, not so? Do you like Monty Python? I should watch “The Meaning of Life” a second time, I’ve seen each of the other two famous movies twice

    His name “Python” fits him like a glove.

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