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There’s No Such Thing as “Faith”

January 24th, 2010 · Posted by Hugo · 135 Comments

There are a number of clichés I just can’t handle. This is especially true in the realm of religion, on both ends of the spectrum, fundie and “new atheist”. Today I’m griping about the “New Atheists’ definition of faith“.

Faith is merely belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking.

That definition is nonsense. Religious people do not believe the things they believe without any evidence. There is scripture, there are millions of believers in the present and the past, there is personal experience, there are observations made throughout life that confirm the religious worldview… If that is the definition of faith, then no-one has it — that kind of “faith” doesn’t exist.

Of course not much of this “evidence” is empirically solid. Scripture was written by fallible human hands. Millions of people believing something is evidence of the strength and persistence of the idea believed in, not that it is empirically provable fact. Personal experience and observations made through life is inherently flawed by the observer’s various biases. None of this evidence for religious faith is actually scientifically acceptable as evidence, but it is still evidence. Psychologically.

That does indeed turn this into a semantic argument, what do we call evidence and what don’t we call evidence? I mean, what’s the difference between “belief based on invalid evidence” and “belief without evidence” anyway? A lot, in fact. When we’re talking about humans, about practical living, rather than some academic and abstract idea toyed with in an ivory tower. There is so much more to “faith” than that reductionist-rationalist definition suggests.

My biggest gripe with that definition is probably that I feel it shuts down the important conversations we should be having, that it incorrectly pigeon-holes those with religious faith, that it promotes a lack of understanding on the inter-personal level.


Up next: So that’s what faith is not, to my mind. Next post I’ll touch on what faith is. To my mind.

Incidentally, I missed this blog’s third birthday yesterday. I think it’s old enough to start shunning birthdays, to let them pass without much fanfare. Besides, I didn’t have much to write right now that was birthday-worthy.

Categories: Worldviews
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135 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 24, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. Christians TELL me that is what they mean by faith, and cite the Bible to back it up:

    Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    It is believing what you want to be true while seeing no evidence. It is not a strawman created by the new atheists; it is claimed and used in exactly that way by many (far from all) theists.

  • 2 Hugo // Jan 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Oh yea, that’s what I also wanted to work into it – “even if Christians and atheists agree on it”. But however I wrote this post, it’d probably still be unsatisfactory w.r.t. what I wanted to make of it. ;) I’ll think some more on it, and probably chat about it after the next one I write.

  • 3 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 24, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Example 1:

    http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=27182570&sort=whole

    “…. The human mind, they said, should be autonomous (that means “self-legislating”), subject only to its own authority. Intellectual autonomy was the highest principle of the Enlightenment.

    The Enlightenment, of course, was not really anything new. The same attitude, the same emphasis on autonomy, was present two thousand years earlier in Greek philosophy, four hundred years earlier among the Renaissance humanists, and has existed whenever and wherever people have tried to carry on the work of the mind without God. From a biblical viewpoint, it is simply the attitude of unbelief. It’s the attitude that says “My mind is my own.”

    …You see, if you start from human autonomy, you can’t believe in God. If you look for some logical argument that runs from the assumption of human autonomy to the conclusion, “God exists,” you won’t find one. When you start from that premise, you will conclude over and over again that God does not exist. The only way to believe in God is by means of a whole new way of thinking, a new mind, the mind of Christ. ”

    The whole idea of concluding a belief based on any sort of evidence is contrary to faith. You are not to conclude, you are to obey. If the Bible says to see 5 fingers, you see 5 fingers.

  • 4 Hugo // Jan 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Pondering: “doesn’t exist” was probably too strong. And I wonder if I should strike out “religious” and just talk about “faith” in more general terms. Hmmm, dunno — I’ll schedule the next post for ~24 hours from now.

  • 5 Hugo // Jan 24, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Okay … I had promised myself to not really take part in discussions until I had written the second post, as a way to ensure I actually do. There are so many multi-post series that I started and never finished… Turns out this is probably going to be one of them, I don’t like my attempts at writing the second post so I’m shelving the idea. Tough choice to keep this one up despite that.

    A quick response to that example — in the context of the ideas of this particular post, I’d say the author considers the Bible to be evidence, considers the collective experience of religious people and past generations of religious people to be evidence, etc. Psychologically I think the person writing the bit you shared thinks there’s sufficient “evidence” to make the decision that “living by faith” is viable. It would be a semantic argument as I mentioned above, so I know it’s weak. So much so that I don’t feel I have much energy to defend it.

    There are a number of posts of a certain genre, of which this post is one, that I’ve experienced again and again is hard to get “right”. It’s easier to respond to other material than to write from scratch. If I revisit these ideas, and if I tackle the originally intended follow-up in any way, I might do it in smaller chunks and with more concrete examples. (Now quit speculating out loud about the future, Hugo, you said you wouldn’t do that.)

    What do you think about “having faith in people”, by the way? And having “faith in the value of this blog” (touched on by the other post I just publised instead of the originally intended follow-up tomorrow)? Are you fine with those uses of the word?

  • 6 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 25, 2010 at 2:08 am

    What do you think about “having faith in people”, by the way? And having “faith in the value of this blog” (touched on by the other post I just publised instead of the originally intended follow-up tomorrow)? Are you fine with those uses of the word?

    Absolutely fine with multiple uses of the word. (Is there any word with only one usage? Dunno.) I’ll just dispute the claim that the word faith never means ‘belief without evidence’ – that ‘new atheists’ are creating a usage out of thin air.

    A quick response to that example — in the context of the ideas of this particular post, I’d say the author considers the Bible to be evidence, considers the collective experience of religious people and past generations of religious people to be evidence, etc.

    Seriously? It talks about bending the knee of your mind and rejecting the idea that your mind should be subject to its own authority. I don’t see how that is consistent with concluding things based on evidence of any sort. It’s positively Orwellian. (Have you ever read 1984?)

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/Howto.htm

  • 7 Hugo // Jan 25, 2010 at 3:08 am

    It is quite an extreme example that – and me trying to respond to it this way is indeed silly. With some people I prefer to just “not go there”, long live taboo subjects… *sigh*. How many people will you find that take that sort of stance? Way too many, sure.

    I haven’t read any Orwell yet, actually. Once I’m done with Dune, I might tackle Huxley’s Brave New World waiting on my shelf, then I should probably read 1984 too so I can take part in 1984-vs-Brave-New-World discussions. ;)

    On faith – the progressive view takes doubt as an important supplement to faith. There are a number of things for which I would agree “faith is needed” (I invoke the word with non-religious meaning in the realm of moral and ethical behaviour for example), and can propose a context and framing in which Hebrews 11:1 should be able to inspire and motivate, as opposed to drive fear into the hearts of those that know history all too well… And that’s the definition/context/understanding that I would like to promote. It’s probably best I start with contemplating ethics and concerns in which the word “faith” could be used, and once a good understanding/grip of the subject is found, *then* bring up Hebrews and explain how it applies.

    I get the feeling that compared to a “progressive” reading, in which context and framing I can recognise wisdom in such passages, a fundie-reading’s context/nuance feels a bit like putting the cart before the horse.

  • 8 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 25, 2010 at 3:25 am

    1984 is a great book, IMO. I’ve enjoyed reading it several times. The ‘five fingers’ reference was to that book. (If you were curious, here it is. Start at

    ”Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?

    and you get the gist. It’s been re-done several times – Star Trek being another example.

  • 9 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 25, 2010 at 10:33 am

    I almost commented on this yesterday (Happy New Year, and Happy 3rd birthday!), but thought I should see precisely how you are defining faith before I crit (hopefully a definition is forthcoming in the 2nd post?).
    However, Ben-Jammin’ has a good point, Hugo. If the definition used by theists explicitly mentions belief in spite of evidence, then we have a problem.

    Which brings me to this:

    There is so much more to “faith” than that reductionist-rationalist definition suggests.

    I suspect you will refer me to the 2nd post (when it comes), but I have to ask: what is this “so much more”? And is this exclusive to your definition of faith?

  • 10 Stephen // Jan 26, 2010 at 5:46 am

    A link to this blog was sent to me by Google Alerts, and it’s of interest to me because I do look for and find the good in everything. Besides, the central tenant of my site and my teaching is that we are dangerously misusing our mind because we “think too much,” and are creating a huge deficit by blocking out the essential insights coming from the creative and intuitive mind.

    For me, after several decades of observation, religious faith is simply belief, because there is no evidence of any kind, anthropological, historical or otherwise to support religious belief. This is specifically the danger of religion and believing, because every religion is founded on a core belief system that must be defended or its very existence is threatened. My article, “The Truth About Religion-The Danger of Believing” (
    wwwhubpages.com/hub/How-Belief-Systems-Destroy-Our-World
    ) and my post, “The Truth About Religion,”
    anewmind.net/blog/a-new-mind-daily-blog/
    ) speak to this issue. For me, religious belief systems are the single greatest obstacle to the blending of our global family. Throughout history and now everyday, we hear of atrocities on different sides committed in the name of the same God. In my opinion, mankind must face this core defect in our personality, i.e. the need for a belief system to make up for our own lack of self autonomy.

    In my clinical work and personal research, I have made a groundbreaking discovery in the mind of a dying woman that saved her life and healed my own. This discovery is stunning in its support of our personal ability to guide ourselves autonomously through our lives. I have lived with this incredible inner guidance mechanism for more than thirty years and know that it is a part of our human psychy and the natural source of of personal truth. I do not believe in “God,” or have faith in “God,” I know “God” with a certitude that no faith or belief can give me. But, the key here is that I have absolutely no need to convince others of this clarity that I call “everyday enlightenment.” I teach how to achieve it to those who are interested. At the end of his long career, Carl Rogers, one of the fathers of modern psychology said that after working with every kind of human being from the most innocent to the most depraved, he had come to recognized that we all had a “core of wisdom, goodness and understanding” which if cultivated would guide us to becoming all we could be as human beings. I know that this is what I have found and live every single day, and it is amazing in the deep inner certitude that it gives me.

    So, the new mind that we can achieve is not the mind of Christ or any other authority figure, it is our own. We no longer need to believe, because we can now know.

    I wish you every blessings and will follow your blog with interest.

  • 11 Stephen // Jan 26, 2010 at 6:25 am

    A link to this blog was sent to me by Google Alerts, and it’s of interest to me because I do look for and find the good in everything. Besides, the central tenant of my site and my teaching is that we are dangerously misusing our mind because we “think too much,” and are creating a huge deficit by blocking out the essential insights coming from the creative and intuitive mind.

    For me, after several decades of observation, religious faith is simply belief, because there is no evidence of any kind, anthropological, historical or otherwise to support religious belief. This is specifically the danger of religion and believing, because every religion is founded on a core belief system that must be defended or its very existence is threatened. My article, “The Truth About Religion-The Danger of Believing” (http://
    wwwhubpages.com/hub/How-Belief-Systems-Destroy-Our-World
    ) and my post, “The Truth About Religion,” http://
    anewmind.net/blog/a-new-mind-daily-blog/
    ) speak to this issue. For me, religious belief systems are the single greatest obstacle to the blending of our global family. Throughout history and now everyday, we hear of atrocities on different sides committed in the name of the same God. In my opinion, mankind must face this core defect in our personality, i.e. the need for a belief system to make up for our own lack of self autonomy.

    In my clinical work and personal research, I have made a groundbreaking discovery in the mind of a dying woman that saved her life and healed my own. This discovery is stunning in its support of our personal ability to guide ourselves autonomously through our lives. I have lived with this incredible inner guidance mechanism for more than thirty years and know that it is a part of our human psychy and the natural source of of personal truth. I do not believe in “God,” or have faith in “God,” I know “God” with a certitude that no faith or belief can give me. But, the key here is that I have absolutely no need to convince others of this clarity that I call “everyday enlightenment.” I teach how to achieve it to those who are interested. At the end of his long career, Carl Rogers, one of the fathers of modern psychology said that after working with every kind of human being from the most innocent to the most depraved, he had come to recognized that we all had a “core of wisdom, goodness and understanding” which if cultivated would guide us to becoming all we could be as human beings. I know that this is what I have found and live every single day, and it is amazing in the deep inner certitude that it gives me.

    So, the new mind that we can achieve is not the mind of Christ or any other authority figure, it is our own. We no longer need to believe, because we can now know.

    I wish you every blessings and will follow your blog with interest.

  • 12 Michael // Jan 27, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    My opinion: Faith is not suspended rationality. Faith is necessarily a rational response to a sometimes non-rational (non-rational does not mean irrational) experience. This is what is meant by personal faith.

    Stephen’s Comment (11):
    ” there is no evidence of any kind, anthropological, historical or otherwise to support religious belief.”

    I disagree strongly with this statement. There are libraries full of apologetic works that contradict this statement.

    What’s more confusing is how much this anti-religious comment seems to sound like religion (possibly “everyday enlightenment” is merely rephrased religious humanism?)

    I think Stephen should say what he means. Religion is not really what you dislike; you dislike theism. And neither atheism nor theism can ever be proved – they are both matters of faith ;)

  • 13 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    @Michael:

    non-rational does not mean irrational

    Could you explain how you differentiate between the two?

    There are libraries full of apologetic works that contradict this statement

    This is skirting perilously close to an argumentum ad populum.

    And neither atheism nor theism can ever be proved – they are both matters of faith

    My turn to disagree, I think…
    If a religion makes a fact claim, which all religions do, then it is possible to subject that fact claim to the scientific method. If that fact claim is not supported by reality, then you can reject that fact claim to a certain degree of statistical certitude.

    If a religion makes a prediction, which is certainly the case with the Abrahamic religions, then if that prediction is falsified, the case for that particular hypothesis is weakened or destroyed. Your confidence in that particular explanation of reality is lessened.

    If a religion makes a fact claim that is answered better by another model of reality, then it should also be considered a poor explanation. Things such as confirmation bias and the placebo effect are far more powerful (and more accurate) explanations of how we perceive the world around us than supernatural interference explained through religion.

    So: you are correct when you state that neither atheism nor theism can be disproved. In fact, you cannot prove anything (i.e. assign a probability of 1 to that event) in nature, outside of the conceptual realm of mathematics and logic. You can only assign confidence levels for certain hypotheses. And very few (if any) of the hypotheses and predictions postulated by religious sources can be validated in such a way.

    So when you speak of faith in your quote above, you are wrong if you are using the meaning that Ben-Jammin’ quotes, namely belief in spite of or in the lack of evidence. For me, I prefer to say I have confidence in the lack of support for the many claims made by religious sources, and consequently they are neither very powerful nor very accurate explanations of the world we find ourselves in. Faith (in the above sense) does not enter into it.

  • 14 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 28, 2010 at 2:38 am

    I disagree strongly with this statement. There are libraries full of apologetic works that contradict this statement.

    I’ve read several of those works, and none have provided one whit of evidence.

  • 15 Hugo // Jan 28, 2010 at 4:25 am

    I’ll tackle things bits at a time, over time…

    @Kenneth #9 – I’ve scratched the “defining faith” comment from the immediate to-write list I’m afraid, but I think hacking it out in comments might just help me get something like that written/defined.

    The first thing to point out: I’m not talking about “religious faith” of the “supernatural beliefs” kind. The kind of “faith” I’m thinking of is rather from the angle of the commitment to a way of living, similar to the commitment to a code of ethics. I think in terms of a inter-personal relationship, between husband and wife, or between friends that really trust one another, a “faithful relationship”. Then I translate that kind of “faith” to the concept of a “relationship” with life, or with “personified goodness”, if you know what I mean.

    BTW, I think we’ve had a similar conversation in the past, thus that I feel a bit like a stuck record player, hashing on on the same topics over and over. Hopefully I’ll express my ideas better now though.

    So together with this “faithful living”, those of conservative religious faith do include the supernatural. For the purposes of this discussion I consider that a “side effect” not directly relevant to what I’m trying to communicate. Incidental.

    Let me define the idea I’m trying to emphasize and an intended eventual target audience for it. “A life of faith is good” is a meme that is generally accepted among the religious. I’m not fighting that meme, because I believe there is *truth* in it, depending on the semantics of faith, depending on how it is understood. In particular, a stereotyped hardline-fundie-exegesis (accepted by the atheistic side as well, and thus somehow “promoted” by that side even if not originated from that side) might be “it is good to not question, to not doubt, to not challenge. Simply accept, on authority. Simply bend the knee of your mind”. I agree, that does *not* sound good, that’s the downright dangerous thing that could lead to dogmatic violence. (Crusades!)

    There’s also a progressive understanding of “faith”, one that embraces doubt, one that suggests if you don’t doubt, you’re also not doing the faith thing right. (Incidentally, that’s an interesting thing about Stephen’s mention, he says he “knows”, he doesn’t “believe / have faith”. So what’s that mean? It sounds like what Shofar teaches in their foundations courses, “you shouldn’t just believe, you should *know*”. Drop the doubt part. Isn’t that something of a faith of the fundie-stereotype kind? Or is that a post-doubt version of a good faith? Or don’t we call that faith? But that’s a digression.) So faith emerges in the regions of your life / philosophy where you’re dealing with stuff that isn’t empirical science. It deals with the foundation of your sense of ethical or moral living. It deals with a lifestance or eupraxsophy even which isn’t based on empirical evidence of “this is factually correct”. However it also isn’t based on complete lack of evidence. For one, there’s evidence that it works, if you’re good to other people, you find it works. And that’s something where the argumentum ad populum might not be a fallacy. An appeal to the majority-experience does suggest that the majority can live a life based on that life-philosophy. It’s fallacious if what you’re trying to show or determine is “what is empirically factual?”, but if what you’re trying to determine is some way to live a successful life, one that’s filled with enough meaning to support a human psyche, traditions by their very existence serve as some kind of evidence.

    You know what I mean?

    OK moving on to an audience, a place in which the ideas I’m trying to communicate might find fertile soil: I mean to point out and define an understanding of “faith” that is universal, that cuts across the typical divides we have here, that can have us agreeing “yes, that kind of faithful living, that kind of faith, is the kind of thing we do all need, and we do all have too little of”. It’s an attempt at an exegesis on the basic teachings of e.g. even Hebrews 11:1 in which the good can be found and emphasized and lived out. The moral life is one that has to do with the substance of things hoped for (that everyone lives out goodness to one another), and evidence of things not seen (where the “godliness”/goodness/love that you live out towards everyone around you, everyone you come across, bears good fruits going forward, towards other people – that often takes some kind of faith to “assume”, “this is worth it, even if it often looks like it is wasted, if evidence can often be found that it isn’t helping, I will still continue living it out, because I also have *reason to believe* it is worthwhile”).

    If the meme “faith is good” is already taken as true by a worldview, I don’t think it’s healthy to then be convincing those that hold that worldview that what that meme actually means is that they should ignore science, aka that it says they should be taking inherited supernatural beliefs as good irrespective of how many scientific experiments mean to falsify them. I consider it best to seek to explain where that “faith is good” advice gets fertile soil in which to grow trees bearing good fruits.

    Let me stop for now, let me know where I’m not clear about what I’m on about.

  • 16 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 28, 2010 at 6:03 am

    You know what I mean?

    I think so.

    Drop the doubt part. Isn’t that something of a faith of the fundie-stereotype kind?

    I think so.

    And that’s something where the argumentum ad populum might not be a fallacy.

    Definitely. I like the wikipedia opening statement on the fact-value distinction:

    “The fact-value distinction is a concept used to distinguish between arguments which can be claimed through reason alone, and those where rationality is limited to describing a collective opinion. In another formulation, it is the distinction between what is (can be discovered by science, philosophy or reason) and what ought to be (a judgment which can be agreed upon by consensus).”

    Until someone discovers an ‘ought’ hanging around outside of any thinking subjects…

    eupraxsophy

    Wow. I had to look that one up.

    I don’t think it’s healthy to then be convincing those that hold that worldview that what that meme actually means is that they should ignore science

    If they already mean something different by the phrase, how could I possibly convince them that they really mean what they don’t mean? When I think of all the theists who have tried to tell me what my usage of atheism / naturalism / whatever meant, they weren’t remotely convincing me of anything. They were just misunderstanding me or trying to provoke me. Where ‘new atheists’ usage is wrong, progressive theists just blow them off. They’re in no danger of being convinced otherwise.

    I think. :)

  • 17 Hugo // Jan 28, 2010 at 8:05 am

    That was a most satisfying exchange (between Ben-Jammin and I), thanks! (For me, anyway, I wish it could be as satisfying to others too.)

    Fact-value, that’s cool. Can I plug my concept of faith in there? The relationship between us and “fact” is based on science. The relationship between us and our “values” is in some senses some kind of “faith”.

    If they already mean something different by the phrase, how could I possibly convince them that they really mean what they don’t mean?

    Of course. I don’t expect you to convince them of anything I’m suggesting. And if I did ask you to argue/convince for a stance/interpretation that you don’t hold, Paine might be becoming relevant, I might be urging infidelity?:

    Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. (Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason)

    So the above explanation is not about me convincing others of something, to do things my way etc., it was just an attempt at explaining my way. And I do recognise the quixotic traits of my dreams. And the fact that I’m what, nearly two years behind “schedule”. ;) Nevertheless, if I’m able to successfully express my views to the point of “Ok, I think I understand what you mean. Not the way I see it / do it, but your way may have some merits. (Of course, I’d measure based on usefulness, so go ahead and demonstrate. :-P)”, then I’m content and feel more ready to build further and publicly on that. (Should I find/make sufficient time.)

    “New Atheists have it wrong” (“that is nonsense” I wrote) is probably rather provocational. They also have it right. I mean I think it depends on your frame, and “that’s nonsense” is more indicative of my psychology-frame (or my arrogance or maybe provocational nature :-P ) than of any empirically testable facts regarding “nonsense”. Aka “I’m talking nonsense” is probably just as correct, though I’d be very unhappy when people tell me that to my face. Hypocrite, aren’t I?

    For serious business I’m thus considering adopting as neutral a language as possible — should be possible to remain passionate even with neutral language. After all, even just having and sharing certain thoughts is offensive enough to many, I really need not add any words that provoke.

    Ah, Kenneth, naturally do feel free to also take shots where appropriate. Ditto for Michael. (And anyone else for that matter.) Michael, let me know if my middle-ground ideas are offensive or offensively expressed. I believe I’ve battled my own worldview into some kind of middle-ground, with the desire to be able to communicate diversely, and to facilitate diverse communications (don’t know how well that would go). These do express my beliefs regarding e.g. my psychology and my grapples with post-theistic life, progressive or liberal or heretical Christianity or whatever. If I ever seem to misrepresent, that needs fixing. I’d be happy to be more clear in my writing on where my opinions really fail to represent anything except just my own opinions. Conversely, if there are some things that you think I’m getting right, or nearly right, you’re welcome to point them out with a “that seems to be getting closer to some hint of truth with regards to how I see such-and-such”.

  • 18 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 28, 2010 at 8:54 am

    @Hugo:

    Drop the doubt part. Isn’t that something of a faith of the fundie-stereotype kind?

    By definition, I would say. :P

    The relationship between us and “fact” is based on science. The relationship between us and our “values” is in some senses some kind of “faith”.

    I think this is a false dichotomy. Values can be studied. They are susceptible to the scientific method. We can have a fair measure of confidence in their predictive value and can explain them via neuroscience, psychology, altruism/game theory etc, evolutionary history etc. So I don’t see how you can use (how I understand) your definition of faith in this instance. Of course, I could be wrong about how I understand your definition of faith… ;-)

    It deals with the foundation of your sense of ethical or moral living.

    It seems to me again that you are trying to compartmentalise off morals and ethics from empirical fact. But this is wrong: your sense of ethical or moral living is demonstrably tied to your environment and your genetics. In other words, the natural world in which we live. You don’t develop your own inner moral meanings in a vacuum. So I fail to see how you can make this distinction.

  • 19 Stephen // Jan 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I don’t dislike religion, it has significant value in our immature world; I just see that it is very dangerous and historically and presently the cause of so much violence and separation.

    What I “see” is that our minds have been accidentally hijacked over the last thousand years by the scientific method and programmed to believe that the rational, analytical mind is our primary mind, when the real purpose of rational thinking is to solve problems we already have the answer to in our brain’s data banks or in our libraries. The scientific method can prove our discoveries in the physical world, but it can never discover anything new. Albert Einstein said that he never made a discovery with his thinking brain. His first insight about relativity came when riding in a bus to work, he looked out of the back window and “saw” the hands of the town clock moving backwards as the bus moved forwards. This was obviously not rational knowledge. Albert was a “stereo” thinker, and most humans are “mono” thinkers, i.e. using only a small, and relatively unimportant part of our brains.

    We are “thinking too much” and this rational overload is blocking the flow from another source of information that provides us with new knowledge, i.e. our creative and intuitive mind. Most of the comments on this blog are examples of this excessive thinking that puts the thinker in a maze that has no exit. No new knowledge is ever generated by such thinking, but it is a sharing of old knowledge with those who do not yet know it. The only way out of the maze is to suspend thinking altogether so that new knowledge can flow in.

    I fully realize how revolutionary and even insane this may seem, but once one is able to suspend thinking, and there is a simple way to do that, we can then “see” the new flowing into our minds. There is also a very dangerous consequence from over-thinking and it is literally killing us individually and destroying our chances of developing a world in which peace and harmony can be a reality.

  • 20 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 28, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    @Stephen:
    I’m afraid I disagree with quite a lot of what you said in #19.

    What I “see” is that our minds have been accidentally hijacked over the last thousand years by the scientific method and programmed to believe that the rational, analytical mind is our primary mind,

    No. The scientific method is a way of testing a hypothesis, derived through rational means and previous knowledge, against new data. As for “programmed”, human beings are spectacularly good at non-rational thinking. I think what we have found out in the last few centuries is that the logical way of thinking works.

    when the real purpose of rational thinking is to solve problems we already have the answer to in our brain’s data banks or in our libraries.

    Our brains don’t have the answer. Nor, in many cases, do our libraries. This isn’t a case of the knowledge being there but inaccessible, the knowledge isn’t there in the first place.

    No new knowledge is ever generated by such thinking, but it is a sharing of old knowledge with those who do not yet know it.

    Similarly:

    The scientific method can prove our discoveries in the physical world, but it can never discover anything new.

    Are you suggesting that the ancient Egyptians knew about quantum physics and general relativity? Or the Sumerians about evolution or information theory? That the ancient Chinese knew the value of the speed of light in a vacuum? Of quasars? Other galaxies? Chlorophyll? The existence of Archaeopteryx?

    I don’t find this argument convincing.

    We are “thinking too much” and this rational overload is blocking the flow from another source of information that provides us with new knowledge, i.e. our creative and intuitive mind.

    Ideas /= knowledge. Our creative minds are incredibly powerful generators of ideas. Whether those ideas correspond to reality is something else entirely. Knowledge doesn’t just flow pure and true from our craniums; it needs to be tested.

    There is also a very dangerous consequence from over-thinking and it is literally killing us individually and destroying our chances of developing a world in which peace and harmony can be a reality.

    I would far prefer, in our current global climate, that world leaders and citizens were provided with all available knowledge about the many issues that they face, as well as the predictions that the experts make about those issues. To make decisions in the way you suggest, without considering what we objectively know about those issues, is a waste of good intel at best and utter madness at worst.

  • 21 Stephen // Jan 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    @Kenneth:
    You are really proving my point, but you can’t “see” it because you continue to analyze and rationalize about what I said instead of “looking” at it, “observing” it and running through a built in “truth detector” that we all have buried underneath all the “rational” mind chatter.

    And, of course, I wasn’t advocating deleting our rational function, we need all the mind power we can get, but integrating it with the creative and intuitive one. My point is that we are not using our whole, integrated mind. In my model of the mind, the creative/intuitive function is our primary function, and the rational/analytic is secondary. First, we see what our creative, intuitive mind presents to us, and then we we use our rational function to apply it appropriately to life. In order to do that, we must know how to put our rational mind in neutral to allow our creative mind to work, and then when we need the rational function, it is applied seamlessly.

    All major discoveries throughout our history came to us not through our rational, analytical mind, but through the creative, intuitive function. Hypotheses, in my model, are not derived through rational means and previous knowledge but are provided to a mind that is open to them. New ideas are often related to previous knowledge, but why aren’t they obvious to everyone? Yes, in other words, they are a “gift.” Once we “received” them, we applied them to real life to see if they indeed worked. When we became more sophisticated (sic), we began to apply the scientific method to test hypotheses, and that’s when the real problem began. Gradually, we became so enthralled by and programmed by science that we began to glorify our rational mind as the source of all knowledge. Then we began to subconsciously apply the scientific method to even the most intimate decisions of our lives and, in effect, blocking the the creative, intuitive function from giving us answers to our PERSONAL and INTIMATE problems which the rational mind cannot solve, because doesn’t have immediate answers to new situations.

    The reason our extreme over-thinking is killing us is because unnecessary thought, which is 98% of our thought, creates fear and stress, that are the basis for the stress-related diseases that kill millions every year. Psychological fear is nothing but thought in the form of memory. It’s impossible to be afraid of the unknown, because by definition, it is unknown. What we are afraid of is the memories stored in our subconscious (our data banks), that are dumped into our conscious mind when triggered by a current, similar incident.

    Again, I do not encourage anyone to “believe” this, but to look at it with critical openness. I’ve lived very successfully this way for more than thirty years. I live a wonderful life with no fear or stress, do not get ill, take no medications and, in fact have not had no needed health insurance for thirty-four years. I’m interested in the practical applications of mind power, and do not have to wait for science to tell me what works and what doesn’t. In the lightening fast world we live in, there really no time for that anymore. We need instant answers that we can “know” are the right ones for us–instantly. And, we have them. At least, I do.

  • 22 Hugo // Jan 29, 2010 at 1:31 am

    @Kenneth #18,

    Drop the doubt part. Isn’t that something of a faith of the fundie-stereotype kind?

    By definition, I would say. :-P

    I’m going to assume you’re pulling my leg here. ;) And with my first quoted sentence there not being a complete sentence (lazy writing on my part), this quote struck me as a “Wait, what? Quote-mine? What *did* I write?”

    Faith-of-the-fundie-stereotype-kind is to me the kind that masquerades psychologically as “knowledge”, assumed knowledge.

    The relationship between us and “fact” is based on science. The relationship between us and our “values” is in some senses some kind of “faith”.

    I think this is a false dichotomy.

    Don’t consider my stance to be a hard-line stance, then it isn’t a false dichotomy.

    Values can be studied. They are susceptible to the scientific method. We can have a fair measure of confidence in their predictive value and can explain them via neuroscience, psychology, altruism/game theory etc, evolutionary history etc. So I don’t see how you can use (how I understand) your definition of faith in this instance. Of course, I could be wrong about how I understand your definition of faith…

    You can scientifically investigate across a large enough group what the effects are of various values. You can understand the game theory behind it. You can comprehend the genetic predispositions from the evolutionary history. You could theoretically even go and tweak our predispositions to remove “violence genes” and encourage altruism and compassion etc. However, that still doesn’t touch on the very personal and subjective choices a self-aware individual makes with regards to his stance on what he learns of morality and ethics. None of the above scientific approaches give any answer to “why should you be good?” for example. I feel the answer to that question is one that’s in the realm of what I’m calling “faith”, namely it’s about your personal “relationship” with a particular way of life.

    It deals with the foundation of your sense of ethical or moral living.

    It seems to me again that you are trying to compartmentalise off morals and ethics from empirical fact. But this is wrong: your sense of ethical or moral living is demonstrably tied to your environment and your genetics. In other words, the natural world in which we live. You don’t develop your own inner moral meanings in a vacuum. So I fail to see how you can make this distinction.

    I think you’re reading my distinctions in too empirical-reductionist a sense. I agree with you, ethical and moral living is tied to your environment and genetics. The distinction lies mostly in “viewing from the outside as a third-party objective observer” (your angle, the scientific discourse, all the things you mentioned), versus “viewed from a self-aware entity that asks the question ‘but need I be a slave to my environment and genetics? I could choose to desensitize myself to various evils and then live them out. Why not? Only because of consequences that affect me? Is that the only reason?” If that’s the only reason, you’ve got a “cold rationalist” approach, and my concept of “faith” would be stretched quite harshly to consider that “the faith of cold hard numbers”. Sorry for pulling in the cold part, feel free to say in which way that isn’t “cold hard number crunching” – then I can ponder whether that bit you’re describing is in line with what I’m considering “faith”.

  • 23 Hugo // Jan 29, 2010 at 2:14 am

    @Stephen #19, these questions are sincere, – what kind of knowledge and discovery do you achieve via your way? Have you made some kind of discoveries or come across some kind of knowledge via “suspended thinking”?

    My beliefs about your worldview / “way”, which I feel you agree with in #21, is that it provides discoveries and knowledge of a personal nature, of the kind that might guide your attitudes to life and how to live it, makes suggestions with regards to interpersonal/intimate problems. I do think that is important, with regards to world peace and other ideals, but I must also agree with Kenneth, that scientific facts and scientific knowledge is of critical value in our times and culture, and that the rational should not be shunned. And it seems you agree also, in paragraph 2 of #21.

    However, for example, your Einstein example throws me a bit – there you are talking about scientific theories. Relativity did not pop into his head in a completed form, complete with all the high-level mathematics and empirical tests that verified his theories are true (by correctly predicting the gravitational bending of light by the sun for example, in the case of general relativity). What does come from the “not ‘thinking’ part” of the brain, for certain meanings of thinking, is creativity and intuition, as you suggest. That does serve as the spark of inspiration, the source of new ideas. Those ideas can then be critically evaluated by the thinking part.

    Does that make sense so far? I’m hoping we’re mostly in agreement up to this point.

    The “sound-byte snippets” I’m forced to disagree with though are the following:

    When we became more sophisticated (sic), we began to apply the scientific method to test hypotheses, and that’s when the real problem began.

    No that’s where the real progress began. Even if with that progress came significant challenges. Relativity would be nothing if it weren’t for the fact that the scientific method was applied to test Einstein’s hypothesis and thereby show it to be accurate. Einstein was completely ready to throw away all his inspired ideas if the empirical scientific testing showed them to be wrong. And it is only due to this attitude from scientists that they were able to build the body of knowledge on which Einstein stood to look a little bit further, “on the shoulders of giants”. (…yea geeks: I know. ;) )

    So to agree with you again: stress and over-thinking can be paralysing, can crush us, can rid us of happy and successful lives and of good health. I know, I notice that too. Actually, I take it prior to those 30 years you had some experiences of what it is like to think too much? It might be interesting if you’re prepared to share some of that, though I do recognise it is a long time ago and sharp memories also change and/or fade over time and become hard to recount?)

    Another point I need to disagree on, or need to be nuanced on:

    …wait for science to tell me what works and what doesn’t. In the lightening fast world we live in, there really no time for that anymore. We need instant answers that we can “know” are the right ones for us–instantly. And, we have them. At least, I do.

    I understand that psychologically, confidence in personal experience with regards to what works for you and what doesn’t can be critical to success. In battling with a full-time job as a first job in a country far from home and established friendships, there are *many* questions I ask and by asking I’m wanting answers to, but I cannot wait or use scientific approaches to finding them. Especially in terms of interpersonal relationships, in the work place and/or other, I find answers in my mind and move on. I let intuition give me the best answer and then I don’t question it, because I know it’s best to just run with it and keep going. For some questions that holds.

    However what about crystals and chakras? What about homeopathy and miracle water and astrology and fortune telling? Add to this list and remove from this list such that it reflects the kinds of things that you consider false, that misleads people. (Are there things like that on this list, for you?) What about questions regarding what is safe and what isn’t, for a governing body that has to make regulatory decisions? (What if your wife gets breast cancer? Or do you feel your way of life helps to prevents that? Which it might, as I understand it stress can have quite an influence on even the development of and fight against cancer.) You may not want to stress about “what if” questions such as these, you might have a point that they just bring stress and unhappiness. However when it comes to our leaders, and when it comes to the fact that the general population will *never* behave in ideal ways, I’m sure you would agree “instant answers” are too likely to be wrong, and need critical evaluation and wariness, and patience? That “I have the answers” seems arrogant, presumptuous, and pretty much seems delusional if the listener is framing/interpreting it in a certain way… For example, do you have instant answers for the problem of alcohol abuse by youths in England? Big-picture questions. I suspect your “answers” have more to do with the “personal questions”, about how you live your life, one aspect of which is to not be the president of some country or multi-national company? ;)

    Are we understanding one another to some degree here?

    I type too much. To bed with me, I’ve got lots more work that I must get finished this weekend. Kenneth, not meant as a lecture but as a friendly reminder which I don’t think you need (I love your comments), don’t neglect your priorities, don’t cave to SIWOTI syndrome. And I’m probably also projecting by reminding you, looking back at how much I’m writing. But I’m really proud that these days I’m able to postpone replies without suffering much mental anguish. ;)

  • 24 Stephen // Jan 29, 2010 at 5:26 am

    @Hugo
    Yes, we really are quite close…I thought I made it clear that science and the rational mind are essential aspects of our life, our future, and our survival. In #19, I said that our minds were “accidentally” hijacked. This was the “real problem” I was referring to when I said that the real problem began when we started using the scientific method. The “problem” is a psychological one, and is not a put down of the scientific method. Over the many hundreds of years that science has been gaining in influence, it has taken on a mantel of respect and almost infallibility, and human beings have gradually, without realizing it, assumed and have been taught a kind of analytical mindset that focuses on using their rational thinking skills almost exclusively. To use a personal example, my sister, who is very intelligent academically, battles with a persistent need to find answers to questions that have plagued her about her earlier years. When I pointed out that all of her analysis has not given her any new answers, she said, “Well, I was taught that if I thought long enough about something I would get the answer.” When, in fact, she began to try my way of suspending “unnecessary” thought, she began to get dramatic insight into her earlier years that did answer many of her questions.

    Just some background info that might answer your questions as to what I personally have discovered through the suspension of rational thinking. As her psychotherapist, I helped a woman heal herself of terminal cancer by finding within her mind an innate intelligence, a special intelligence separate from her rational, conscious mind, that knew exactly why she was dying and how to heal her. This was, of course, very much out of the main stream of rational thinking, and actually frightened me at first. It lead us on five-year healing adventure that cured her and healed my life as well. That was the beginning on my adventure. I discovered my own special intelligence and am convince that we all have it buried beneath the overwhelming twelve lanes of rush-hour traffic of thoughts in our heads. I personally spend 95% of my day in a clear, quiet, creative place in my mind where I am open to the wisdom of that part of my mind, but I can still find my way home and do my taxes. :) It is because of this inner guidance that my wife and I have been able to live without health insurance, bring up two children without it, and be illness and ACCIDENT free for the last thirty four years. By the way, I think any statistician would say that that is a statistically significant length of time. Also, by the way, I have no doubt that what I have discovered will some day be replicated and verified by science, and I do hope to live to see and maybe even participate in that happening. But, I can’t wait for science to catch up with this discovery before I use it and encourage others to do the same.

    My model of the mind simply encourages an integration of our whole mind but with the creative, intuitive functions as primary, and the rational, analytical as secondary or auxiliary. I’ve developed a simple, science-based technique that that makes that possible by making use of brain plasticity by changing the neuron pathways in the brain and substituting alpha brain waves for beta waves as ones primary brain wave activity. Once this is accomplished, it can be re-enforced by a stimulus/response technique. That technique and more information is available on my website. My book, The Whisper In Your Heart, details how we helped Nancy to heal herself and how anyone can access their own special intelligence. Peace and blessings, Stephen

  • 25 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

    @Hugo:

    I’m going to assume you’re pulling my leg here. ;) And with my first quoted sentence there not being a complete sentence (lazy writing on my part), this quote struck me as a “Wait, what? Quote-mine? What *did* I write?”

    ??? I reread that piece. I’m not pulling your leg. Dropping doubt is exactly how I would define a fundamentalist definition of faith.

    Faith-of-the-fundie-stereotype-kind is to me the kind that masquerades psychologically as “knowledge”, assumed knowledge.

    Well, we’re back to definitions, here…is assumed knowledge really knowledge? I would say no.

    None of the above scientific approaches give any answer to “why should you be good?” for example.

    But they do! From a purely disinterested perspective, if a large enough number of people behave in a manner considered “good”, then the resulting society can (in general) outcompete competitors. The definitions of “good” evolve (to a certain extent) along with the society.

    From a personal perspective (why should I be good?), because one of the behaviours that maintain the society mentioned above is retaliation against/response to cheaters, there will be consequences if you don’t behave. Also, we have empathy. Most of us don’t like to see people suffer! This is also an explanation.

    ‘but need I be a slave to my environment and genetics? I could choose to desensitize myself to various evils and then live them out. Why not? Only because of consequences that affect me? Is that the only reason?”

    Well, no. If you desensitise yourself to various evils, then other people will inevitably suffer. The consequences are not just to yourself.

    The above is hopelessly speciesist, but I hope you get the general drift!

    Sorry for pulling in the cold part

    No worries. ;-)

    feel free to say in which way that isn’t “cold hard number crunching”

    No, you’re right. It is hard and cold. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the universe doesn’t need to care about our personal decisions…In fact, it can’t.

  • 26 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

    @Stephen

    You are really proving my point, but you can’t “see” it because you continue to analyze and rationalize about what I said instead of “looking” at it, “observing” it and running through a built in “truth detector” that we all have buried underneath all the “rational” mind chatter.

    Our minds are not highly trustworthy sources of data. They are merely (mostly) reliable. Think about optical illusions, hallucinations, phantom limbs in amputees, unreliable memories…the list goes on.

    And, of course, I wasn’t advocating deleting our rational function, we need all the mind power we can get, but integrating it with the creative and intuitive one.

    But this is kind of the point of the scientific method. Utilise our immense capability for coming up with creative ideas, and test those ideas against both their internal logic and the external world.

    All major discoveries throughout our history came to us not through our rational, analytical mind, but through the creative, intuitive function.

    No. This is untrue. They only become major discoveries once those amazing ideas have been tested against the data. You don’t hear about the amazing ideas that don’t make it.

    Hypotheses, in my model, are not derived through rational means and previous knowledge but are provided to a mind that is open to them.

    Well, then we are talking about different definitions of the word hypothesis.

    Gradually, we became so enthralled by and programmed by science that we began to glorify our rational mind as the source of all knowledge.

    But we don’t do this. Our rational mind is a tool for gaining knowledge, not the source of that knowledge.

    The reason our extreme over-thinking is killing us is because unnecessary thought, which is 98% of our thought, creates fear and stress, that are the basis for the stress-related diseases that kill millions every year.

    A few things:
    1) Unnecessary thought is not necessarily irrational.
    2) Rational thought is not always necessary.
    3) Neither unnecessary nor rational thought leads necessarily to fear or stress.
    4) Do you have evidence to support your 98% unnecessary thought value? Or was this just a placeholder for “very large percentage”? If so, do you have evidence for this?
    5) Rational thought, and it’s effects, are one of the reasons that 98% of us aren’t dying before puberty of disease or predators on the African savannah. Or being stillborn. Killing our mothers in the process. Life would be hard, nasty, brutish, and short.

    Again, I do not encourage anyone to “believe” this, but to look at it with critical openness.

    I rather think this has been done.

    I’m interested in the practical applications of mind power, and do not have to wait for science to tell me what works and what doesn’t. In the lightening fast world we live in, there really no time for that anymore.

    And if you are wrong?

    If your instant/intuitive answer isn’t the best one?

    I will grant you that your method will almost certainly beat the scientific method in terms of speed (a desirable property) every time. However, there are other properties that are more important. Intuitive answers are only valuable (in terms of explanatory or predictive power) inasmuch as they are true, and useful. This is where the scientific method comes into its own.

  • 27 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 29, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Values can be studied. They are susceptible to the scientific method.

    No, they are not. There are no observations that can be done, no experiments that can be done, to determine what root values are ‘correct.’

    From a purely disinterested perspective, if a large enough number of people behave in a manner considered “good”, then the resulting society can (in general) outcompete competitors.

    Sure. But from a purely disinterested perspective, this is just something that happens. It is not preferred that society do better than competitors from a purely disinterested perspective. From the competing society’s perspective, those same people behaving ‘good’ could be considered ‘bad’ by the ‘outcompete’ justification. From a disinterested perspective, it is neither good nor bad – it just is. From an interested perspective, it all depends on what the interests are, and you cannot rationally justify ‘self-interest’ or ‘self+tribe’ or ‘tribe-self’ or any other interest as being ‘true.’

  • 28 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 29, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    @Ben-Jammin’

    No, they are not. There are no observations that can be done, no experiments that can be done, to determine what root values are ‘correct.’

    What do you mean by “correct”? If you mean some sort of universal objective figure for a particular value, then I agree with you. However, if you mean that values aren’t subject to a distribution of some sort, with a quantifiable mean and variance, which can then be subject to testing, I disagree.

    But from a purely disinterested perspective, this is just something that happens.

    Which is why I placed “good” in inverted commas. OK, there will be a lot of variance around this point, but behaviours that we label as “good” i.e. do not kill, do not lie etc. etc. are also the behaviours that allow a society to function. So they will mostly be encouraged. Behaviours that we consider bad, selfish etc, will result in societal breakdown if practised in sufficient quantities without fear of punitive measures. On the whole, societies under option A will outcompete societies under option B.

    It is not preferred that society do better than competitors from a purely disinterested perspective.

    I agree with pretty much all that you’ve said in the second paragraph. I’m not arguing for a universal moral compass, to which certain values are ascribed absolute goodness. I’m describing a situation whereby certain morals will tend to accentuate the survival (and spread) of the societies that promulgate them, and these are things that we often label “good”. Some of these have deep-seated groundings in our genetic make-up (empathy, retribution for perceived wrong-doing), others are far more contextually dependent (civil rights, environmental awareness), and others might very well be pure noise (local fashion sense). There is no universal right or wrong, but that doesn’t mean that morals don’t follow trends that we can explain and (to some extent) predict.

  • 29 Stephen // Jan 29, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    @Kenneth

    This conversation is like others I’ve had with people who think primarily with their rational, left brain. It’s much like two people who are talking about a snow-covered mountain top in front of them. One is looking at the mountain, and the other is looking at a picture of one in a book.

    You totally ignored the three personal examples I gave that illustrate from, a very high statistical probability, the efficacy of the model of the mind that I advocate and have used clinically and personally for thirty years. It works so extremely well, and yes my “intuitive” knowledge has always been correct, that I could never imagine shifting back to a lower evolutionary level of thinking. What I’ve presented here describes the mind of the future without which people just WILL NOT survive. The human race now has the ability to consciously evolve, and this is a way it can be done. We now can have conscious control over our body, mind and spirit, and can manipulate them as we choose, but only if freed from the domination of the thought/fear generating machine of the rational mind. Science will not come to recognize this for many generations, although it is beginning to just glimpse the potential of it in organ regeneration and neuro-plasticity.

    I used to spend many hours, engaged in this kind of conversation with my then friends who gloried in their ability to win arguments with their supposed iron-clad logic, but no progress of any kind was ever made in such discussions. It really had only entertainment value if any. Logic is only one small part of our whole mind. Socrates, the father of logic, at the time of his death stunned his audience by explaining that the reason he was about to die without defending himself was because his “oracle within,” his inner voice, his “special intelligence,” that had guided him throughout his long and illustrious life, gave no sign that he should try to save his life. “By this I know that death is not the worst evil,” he said. The father of logic used the influence of an illogical inner voice to actually defend why he was not talking himself out of his execution, which he surely could have done. When ask what truth was, Gandhi, who led a billion people to freedom said, “That’s a tough question, but for me it is what the little voice inside tells me.” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Follow the little voice within, and it will lead you where you need to go.” Another inner voice, almost twenty centuries after Socrates, saves the life a woman dying of cancer. My inner voice, special intelligence has guided me unerringly for more than thirty years.

    This will be my last comment. I certainly have no desire nor need to convince anyone of the value of what I clearly see and live constantly. I simply present it, looking for those who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and open hearts. I wish you a great life and many blessings.

  • 30 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 30, 2010 at 3:17 am

    If you mean some sort of universal objective figure for a particular value, then I agree with you.

    That is indeed what I meant. I also agree that you can talk about distributions and such…and I agree with pretty much the rest of #28.

  • 31 Hugo // Jan 30, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Stephen,

    You totally ignored the three personal examples I gave that illustrate from,

    You also totally ignored Kenneth’s points in your comments. Do you recognise that? That that is at least as “bad” as Kenneth’s ignoring of your personal examples? (Which might be a kind thing of him to do, or a point of “that’s fine”.)

    a very high statistical probability

    Sorry Stephen, that’s wrong. Your examples do not at all demonstrate the efficacy of your ideas with “high statistical probabilities”. I’ll touch on them quickly:

    – Your sister, I think that’s a good example, there are often things we question too much and are better off letting go and moving on.

    – Cancer cure. That is a single example of someone who had cancer and then no longer had cancer. This does happen in a number of cases. Cancer does go into remission. Even if your “way” was what cured her, a single example/anecdote does not provide any sort of statistic.

    – Healthy. That might seem statistically significant to you, but from a perspective of random people we run into on the internet, there are six billion people out there. A sizeable portion (hundreds of thousands at least) try various non-conventional ways of living. Even if it were just pure chance, some of them will remain healthy and others will get ill. Among those that remain healthy by pure chance, many will self-select themselves and believe they are examples of people that “have the answers”. They will go and promote their ways to others. The internet is one way of doing that. And we have no way of telling whether you’re just one of the random lucky guys or whether you actually have an answer.

    So we go with our intuition and we don’t waste our time chasing things that our intuition tells us is a waste of time. Like you suggest. You cannot expect people to chase every fad they come across (have you seen how many fads there are, that aren’t *your* way? How many of them do you think are correct?)

    – There is a reason why science does double-blind testing and pull in real and mathematically solid statistics to determine how large a sample size is needed for a sensible statement.

    – Organ regeneration? That should be really easy to measure, to prove. I suggest you go do that and write a paper, get your methodology double checked by scientists, then you’ll have proof that can be published. Come back to us with that, and we’d celebrate with you and shout it from the mountains with you.

    I’ve developed a simple, science-based technique that that makes that possible…

    If you’re still around, I would love to hear an explanation of what you mean by a “science-based technique”. What is this “science” you are talking about?

    If you’re not still around, bye Stephen. All the best.

  • 32 Hugo // Jan 30, 2010 at 3:51 am

    @Kenneth:

    ??? I reread that piece. I’m not pulling your leg

    Ah, ok. “By definition, I would say. :-P” was what I was responding to, tongue sticking out, and I’m writing a blog post about diverse definitions. Slight-poke-of-fun.

    Well, we’re back to definitions, here…is assumed knowledge really knowledge? I would say no.

    Agreed. It’s but a confidence-trick the brain is pulling on itself in order to achieve a certain state. That state may psychologically “feel like knowledge”. To those that have no knowledge of epistemology. (Or intuitions about epistemology either. Or they’re just not listening to their intuitions or something. :-P)

    I’m going to drop the use of the “faith” word for now, and simply explore some of the facets of the concepts I have in mind. If you feel like playing:

    You walk down a deserted street in a foreign first-world country where you’re on vacation for a week. You find a wallet lying by the side of the road. It contains a bunch of stuff, and a good wad of cash. You decide to do the good thing, and drop off the wallet somewhere that you know the original owner will find it again. And it’s not a corrupt police station, so you do consider it worthwhile to leave the cash in the wallet, instead of taking it for yourself. Why do you do that?

  • 33 Hugo // Jan 30, 2010 at 3:53 am

    (I’ve some other examples that are radically different, I might also want to explore them, but one at a time, eh.)

  • 34 Hugo // Jan 30, 2010 at 4:00 am

    @Stephen: it is indeed possible that the effort of doing a scientific study on your beliefs around organ regeneration might just crush your spirit, and thereby prove the harm that scientific rationalism can do to a psyche. Thus you, individually, might be better off not thinking too much about that, leaving those “rational thoughts” be.

    That suggestion would surely apply if it turned out your ideas aren’t more than the mind-games we often play on ourselves, from which we can derive subjective or psychological benefit, but not actually demonstrate objectively that those mind-games do what we believe they do.

  • 35 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    @Stephen

    One is looking at the mountain, and the other is looking at a picture of one in a book.

    Dare I ask, which is the rational mind in this metaphor?

    I see Hugo has already mentioned the stats problem.

    You totally ignored the three personal examples I gave that illustrate from, a very high statistical probability, the efficacy of the model of the mind that I advocate and have used clinically and personally for thirty years.

    I didn’t ignore them. In all honesty, I missed them completely in my first read through! Sorry about this. Basically though, having read through them now, my response would have been the same as Hugo’s.

    It works so extremely well, and yes my “intuitive” knowledge has always been correct, that I could never imagine shifting back to a lower evolutionary level of thinking.

    Two things:
    1) How can you be certain that you were always correct? Have you tried to correct for confirmation bias (I need a shortcut key for those words, I swear)?
    2) Do you know what evolution is? It is the change in frequency of a heritable characteristic in a population over time. To describe different ways of thinking as “evolutionary” is…unconventional.

    We now can have conscious control over our body, mind and spirit, and can manipulate them as we choose,

    Really? You can manipulate the presence of your blind spots? Get rid of those pesky optical illusions? Prevent aging or hair loss or indigestion just by thinking about it?

    but only if freed from the domination of the thought/fear generating machine of the rational mind.

    Have you ever heard of the fight or flight reflex? It is an autonomic (i.e. unconscious, non-rational) reaction to getting a fright. It subjects the body to tremendous stress for what is often a false alarm.

    This is just one example of a stress-inducing mental action that is not rational.

    I used to spend many hours, engaged in this kind of conversation with my then friends who gloried in their ability to win arguments with their supposed iron-clad logic, but no progress of any kind was ever made in such discussions.

    Have you considered, perhaps, the possibility that your friends were right?

    Logic is only one small part of our whole mind.

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    The point is, when it comes to explaining and predicting the world around us, it is the part which works.

    This will be my last comment. I certainly have no desire nor need to convince anyone of the value of what I clearly see and live constantly.

    Well, I wasn’t trying to chase you away, or antagonise you. But surely if your method is so powerful, you should be able to defend it against some simple questions from silly old me.

    I wish you a great life and many blessings.

    Thank you! Reciprocated.

  • 36 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    @Hugo

    You walk down a deserted street in a foreign first-world country where you’re on vacation for a week. You find a wallet lying by the side of the road. It contains a bunch of stuff, and a good wad of cash. You decide to do the good thing, and drop off the wallet somewhere that you know the original owner will find it again. And it’s not a corrupt police station, so you do consider it worthwhile to leave the cash in the wallet, instead of taking it for yourself. Why do you do that?

    I honestly don’t know! I don’t think it is rational, possibly just a reaction of the mind to those particular circumstances. But the response does exist, no matter its internal justifications. I’m sure any behavioural psychologist or neuroscientist would give you a better answer than me…

  • 37 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 30, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Hot off the press!

    http://maukamakai.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/altruism-on-demand-ill-help-but-only-if-you-ask-nicely-2/

  • 38 Ben-Jammin' // Jan 31, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Why do you do that?

    Because if I lost my wallet I would like it if a person who found it got it back to me.

  • 39 Michael // Jan 31, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Woah! I missed a lot in a few days. It’s all got a bit ‘think-too-much’ for me, but in answer to Kenneth’s question in 13, I use ‘irrational’ to describe thinking charcterised by fallacies of reasoning, and ‘non-rational’ to describe what we might call ‘intuitive’ knowledge (or revelation knowledge if you’re a typical evangelical fundie).

    I take your point about libraries of apologetics books not being worth anything unless their contents hold something of value. I assume that they do (from my own limited knowledge on the subject of apologetics, both atheist and theist.

    Your points about probability rather than proof were enlightening, thank you! :) I will have to think about my own evaluation of the probabilities of my beliefs.

  • 40 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 2, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    @ Michael
    Thanks for the clarification. Back to your original statement:

    Faith is necessarily a rational response to a sometimes non-rational (non-rational does not mean irrational) experience. This is what is meant by personal faith.

    OK, so if I understand you right, you are saying that faith is a rational response to some sort of intuitive (or otherwise non-rational) stimulus?

    I take your point about libraries of apologetics books not being worth anything unless their contents hold something of value. I assume that they do (from my own limited knowledge on the subject of apologetics, both atheist and theist.

    Well, I think such a library is worth something of value, just not much in terms of an argument for the existence of a god! :P

  • 41 Michael // Feb 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    @Kenneth

    Yes, that’s about right, except that I said “sometimes non-rational experience”. Some people’s experiences are not intuitive. Some are based on hard facts read from a certain culturally acquired world-view. Some are based on intuitive or ‘spiritual’ experiences. Some are based on a philosophical enquiry (thinking of C.S. Lewis for instance). The point is that, whatever the source of the data, the decision is not irrational but rational from these people’s perspective. The decision is rational, therefore the faith is rational. In other words, for many theists, believing just seems like the most rational thing to do. You may disagree with their judgement, but you cannot accuse them of being irrational, and faith cannot be described as “suspended rationality”.

  • 42 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    @ Michael:

    The decision is rational, therefore the faith is rational.

    Well, whilst I agree that the decision-making process, using some rational mechanism, might very well be unflawed, the conclusions are only as good as your starting premises. If your starting premise i.e. a spiritual experience or whatever, doesn’t hold (or isn’t reliable), then your conclusions cannot be trusted even if your logic is sound.

    You may disagree with their judgement, but you cannot accuse them of being irrational, and faith cannot be described as “suspended rationality”.

    I agree with you, in the sense that I don’t define faith that way. To me, faith is belief without or in spite of evidence, not rationality (using the commonly understood empirical definition of the word evidence). Which is ironically exactly what Hugo was vociferously objecting to in the original post! I disagree with him on this point… :p

    It’s quite possible that someone’s faith can rely on erroneous logic. But the “belief without evidence” definition suffices (for me, at least) because in this case exposure to increased data, clearly in conflict with the currently held conclusion, should force a re-examination of the logic, which covers the rationality aspect.

  • 43 Michael // Feb 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Fair enough.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about whether or not all theistic starting premises are faulty. Worldview will have a lot to do with the way we look at the same data. You may insist that intuitive/spiritual experiences I have had are the result of purely cognitive conditioning (or something), but to prove that to me would be exceptionally difficult. Still, I can appreciate your thinking on this subject. At least you are attacking only the evidence and not the people. Nothing will make the theist like me more stubborn than accusations of, well… stupidity. Thanks.

  • 44 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 7, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    @Michael:

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about whether or not all theistic starting premises are faulty.

    I don’t think all of them are, by any means. But I do think all starting premises (independent of origin) should suffer continuous scrutiny, to determine which are and which are not faulty…

    Worldview will have a lot to do with the way we look at the same data.

    True…which means that those different worldviews are hypotheses, in a manner of speaking. You can test those hypotheses and see which one fits the data better…

    You may insist that intuitive/spiritual experiences I have had are the result of purely cognitive conditioning (or something), but to prove that to me would be exceptionally difficult.

    May I ask why?

    At least you are attacking only the evidence and not the people.

    I try. Not always successfully! But thanks for the compliment!

  • 45 Michael // Feb 7, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I’m not sure that worldviews are hypotheses. I think they are systems of hypotheses and cannot be critiqued as a whole, but rather one by one (as you say – ‘all starting premises should suffer continuous scrutiny.

    It’s difficult to prove some things ‘across a worldview divide’. The worldview must first be fully understood and deconstructed before you can critique how it is used to ‘view’ data. It’s like arguing in two different languages. This is true not only of the theistic versus the atheistic worldview, but of many worldviews inside Christianity. Dialogue is difficult because we try to critique each other’s systems of theology before we even understand the starting premises. Most often (I think) when you truly understand first premises, you can see how the whole system makes sense. It is a working system.

    I’ve heard that when working with psychiatric patients who suffer from paranoid delusions, the therapist will not try to correct the patient’s worldview as a whole. Let’s say a patient believes that he is the last surviving human in a world taken over by aliens. If you simply tell him that that’s rediculous, you only push him further into his delusion because, from his perspectives, and working from his starting premises (which may be rooted in subconscious or intuitive experiences), his view of the world makes perfect sense.

    …so maybe we all have our delusions. ;) What we need more of is understanding. We need to actually understand each other’s starting premises. That’s why I said ‘exceptionally difficult’ – not impossible. Just as it seems virtually inconceivable to you that I would be able to prove to you that your worldview is fundamentally flawed. To begin by critiqueing the worldview as a whole is a waste of time.

  • 46 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    @Michael:

    I’m not sure that worldviews are hypotheses.

    They are, in the sense that they offer explanations about reality, and make predictions that can be tested. They aren’t, in the sense that it will not be easy (but might be very worthwhile) to put some sort of mathematical underpinning to those hypotheses.

    I think they are systems of hypotheses and cannot be critiqued as a whole, but rather one by one (as you say – ‘all starting premises should suffer continuous scrutiny.

    Hmmm…granted, if you invalidate one particular aspect of such a system, it doesn’t mean that the entire system is necessarily wrong. But it would require greater scrutiny of the surviving premises, and greater caution in interpreting the conclusions as correct.

    This is true not only of the theistic versus the atheistic worldview, but of many worldviews inside Christianity.

    Too true.

    Dialogue is difficult because we try to critique each other’s systems of theology before we even understand the starting premises.

    Well, from what I know of the theist worldview, the foundational premise is that god exists. In my view, it is fairly important to test this premise…. :-P

  • 47 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Aaaaaaaaarrrrrgggggggghhhhhhh.

    Me fail blockquotes forever!

    [Ed. Fixed it for you.]

  • 48 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Sorry Michael, this jumped out at me after my blockquote snafoo:

    Most often (I think) when you truly understand first premises, you can see how the whole system makes sense. It is a working system.

    Heh. Eerily enough, I’d just yesterday read this saying again:

    “The great tragedy of science – a beautiful hypothesis slain by an ugly fact.”

    by Thomas Henry Huxley. No matter how magnificently beautiful the idea, no matter what glorious implications it has, no matter how much sense it makes (or NON-sense, see quantum physics!), it must be tested if we are to have any confidence in it. And if a single, incontrovertible fact jumps up in the way, then we have to accept that the theory is wrong. Perhaps not entirely, perhaps it can be saved by modifying it, perhaps it can lead to an entirely new theory, but the fact remains (literally).

    This applies to worldviews, and religion. I know some people argue that you can’t think about religion in a scientific way. I disagree wholeheartedly. It is possible to test the predictions made by religion, and as a result we can derive some sort of confidence in the truth or untruth of those claims, and by extension the worldview behind it.

    Sorry to harp on about this, but it is (no doubt to the boredom of readers) something that I feel I cannot emphasise enough.

  • 49 Hugo // Feb 9, 2010 at 1:40 am

    I’m finally responding to my wallet example — to talk about my preferred concept of “faith”.

    @Kenneth #36:

    I honestly don’t know! I don’t think it is rational, possibly just a reaction of the mind to those particular circumstances. But the response does exist, no matter its internal justifications. I’m sure any behavioural psychologist or neuroscientist would give you a better answer than me…

    You’re talking impartial third-person observer again. That’s the question scientists ask. That is not the question I’m asking. I’m talking precisely about those internal justifications, about a conscious individual making a choice. Incidentally, “I’m just doing what my brain chemistry is causing me to do” sounds to me like Sartre’s notion of acting in bad faith. ;)

    The first thing to note here is that the two explanations (scientific and personal/internal) are not in conflict: they’re just answers to different questions, viewed from different vantage points.

    “I don’t think it is rational” — hah! But you agree that it is good, right? (With “good” understood as a natural human cultural value or something.)

    Continuing with Ben’s answer, thanks Ben, #38 (and I fixed your blockquote too):

    Because if I lost my wallet I would like it if a person who found it got it back to me.

    So Ben-Jammin’ invokes the golden rule as the basis for his ethics. Because I would like them to do the same. However, how does doing this help? Versus not doing it? (In this one individual instance, not in a global human genetic trend.) Ben-Jammin’ chooses to give back the wallet with the money still in it, when he could have kept it. (Such is the hypothetical I sketched out.)

    He is in a foreign first-world country, for e.g. a South African the implication there is supposed to be that the person whose wallet he is returning will likely never visit South Africa, will never be in a place to return the favour. There is no evidence, and a huge burden of proof for anyone wanting to claim that that individual act of returning the money in the wallet to that individual person will in any way increase the likelihood that a different individual would return Ben-Jammin’s wallet with the cash still in it at a different time. (And I don’t think anyone here would claim that it would make a direct difference. Anyone want to invoke Karma? ;) )

    So what is the substance of that good act, exactly? What is the substance of that “because I want others to do the same for me”? Here I suggest that it is the substance of things hoped for. It is evidence of goodwill to one another, in a way, it is the evidence of things not seen.

    The word choice of Hebrews 11:1 is not exactly what I’d choose in trying to support this, but I’m proposing that it could be used to refer to this kind of act, and if it is framed by the context of this kind of act, Hebrews 11:1 would be talking about something that is good and to be encouraged in other humans.

    Catch my drift? Does this make some sense? (Irrespective of the bad-context you could also frame it with.)

    If we’re mostly agreed on this topic, I’ll try to continue with another notion of things I like referring to as “faith”.

    BTW, on the chimp altruism article, I hate how we’ve ended up with such a watered down (and pretty much irrelevant) interpretation/understanding of a “good Samaritan”.

  • 50 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 9, 2010 at 8:09 am

    @Hugo

    Incidentally, “I’m just doing what my brain chemistry is causing me to do” sounds to me like Sartre’s notion of acting in bad faith.

    Well, we are just doing what our brain chemistry causes us to do. Meat computers and all that.

    The first thing to note here is that the two explanations (scientific and personal/internal) are not in conflict:

    But, if the explanations are so harmonious, I don’t see why the scientific explanation cannot inform the personal (of course, if they were in conflict, I still think the scientific should inform the personal!). I just don’t have the answers in this instance.

    “I don’t think it is rational” — hah! But you agree that it is good, right?

    Yes.

  • 51 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 9, 2010 at 9:13 am

    I fixed your blockquote

    Thanks!

    However, how does doing this help? Versus not doing it?

    Help what or whom? Valuing self is just as non-rational as valuing self+others. It may help the original owner of the wallet, and I am assigning value to that person’s feelings. If I were to keep it because I did not value that person’s feelings but valued my own, that is no less unjustified. Even pure, short-sighted, unadulterated selfishness is not rational.

    Quoting myself: From an interested perspective, it all depends on what the interests are, and you cannot rationally justify ’self-interest’ or ’self+tribe’ or ‘tribe-self’ or any other interest as being ‘true.’

    If you want to label the shift from a non-interested perspective to an interested one an exercise in faith (or something like that), I can try and remember that as your usage.

    The word choice of Hebrews 11:1 is not exactly what I’d choose in trying to support this, but I’m proposing that it could be used to refer to this kind of act, and if it is framed by the context of this kind of act, Hebrews 11:1 would be talking about something that is good and to be encouraged in other humans.

    Meh. I think you’re abusing Hebrews 11:1. Read in context, it applies to much more than just fundamental values like self or self+others – Hebrews 11:3 even talks about the creation of the universe!

    1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
    2This is what the ancients were commended for.
    3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

    Etc. I don’t think bringing the Bible into it helps – it muddies the waters. (Of course, I was the one who brought the Bible up, wasn’t I? Ah, well.) In context, you have: By being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command… It leads straight into believing things about what happened in the past and how reality works regardless if you see it otherwise.

    17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son

    The faith talked about in Hebrews 11 is the submission to non-thinking obedience kind; it is to be commended. What is good and to be encouraged in other humans is ‘obedience to authority in both ethics and worldview.’ It definitely isn’t ‘empathy to others regardless of authority and no position on how to arrive at a worldview.’

    Faith as you describe AND faith as Hebrews describes are both used by different religious people.

  • 52 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 9, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    I came across these definitions of faith, as seen by atheists and theists, on tvtropes (of all places):

    Atheists see “faith” as a justification Christians use to (irrationally, they argue) believe that God is real despite lacking evidence.

    Christians see “faith” as the trust they have in the power and benevolence of God, of whose existence they are confident for other reasons.

    Comments, anyone?

  • 53 Hugo // Feb 10, 2010 at 2:09 am

    @Kenneth:

    Well, we are just doing what our brain chemistry causes us to do. Meat computers and all that.

    I think the point is: “We have no free will” – a statement of faith. “We have free will” – a statement of faith. Sartre called one “bad faith” and the other good. Fact of the matter is, we experience free will, and believing we have free will and consciously acting accordingly can have a positive effect on our lives.

    I don’t see why the scientific explanation cannot inform the personal

    Neither do I, and I don’t mean to suggest they shouldn’t. What is interesting though: a scientific view of the world that explains why we are good does still not explain why we should be good, and it is very possible to take a nihilistic angle then: “see, it’s just the genes that cause me to be good. I can transcend, I need not be a slave to my genes.” Science gives no reason why you shouldn’t go kill people. By all means, they are likely to retaliate, but if you don’t mind, then whahey, fair game! So it still comes down to a choice not based on evidence (except maybe evidence that the majority of humanity appears to live lives that feel more fulfilled if they are good to one another). BTW have you ever watched Dexter? (The serial killer, not the smartest boy you’ve ever seen with a sister named Didi…)

    @Ben:

    If you want to label the shift from a non-interested perspective to an interested one an exercise in faith

    That sounds about right actually. One kind talked about earlier is the kind that doing good will make the world a better place — assigning value to that good act thus. And the other angle on faith is very much related, and Kenneth already touched on it. Getting to it…

    Re: abusing Paul — yes, sure. Paul is explicitly personified-theistic in his worldview/language, whereas I’m seeking a post-theistic expression of similar “wisdom”. I’m seeking the post-theistic equivalent to “faith”. Grappling with someone speaking another wisdom-language, like trying to translate my natural language into another, can shed more light on the concepts I’m talking about in my own…

    Post-theistic angle on existence/creation/the-universe is a matter of “accepting that it is there”. (I have a friend that grapples regularly with the absolute bafflement that is our continued existence. He grew up Christian and deconverted, via a path of grappling with big questions, which I’m sure contributes. Growing up without ever having had an explanation might generally make it simpler to simply continue that way.)

    I don’t think bringing the Bible into it helps – it muddies the waters.

    It might, and it might not. It probably muddies the water of Ben-Hugo communications? ;)

    In agreement with the rest of your post, and Isaac is a truly messy example. I’m in support of the theology that suggests the Bible contains examples of both good and bad. My favourite pastor explained “three steps forward, two steps back” in terms of the progression of morality in the tribe of Israel. He cited the bears mauling children for mocking a prophet for being bald. Blog post on that is on the to-do list, because I’ve an example of the most horrific sermon-for-children based on that. (And yes, it’s the “obey, and don’t you dare question, or else!” variety, to be contrasted with the “to question, to grapple, that is the meaning of the faith” variant.)

    @Kenneth hits the nail:

    Atheists see “faith” as a justification Christians use to (irrationally, they argue) believe that God is real despite lacking evidence.

    Christians see “faith” as the trust they have in the power and benevolence of God, of whose existence they are confident for other reasons.

    Bingo… This brings me to another view of my concept: the interpersonal one. The kind of faith between a husband and a wife, the kind of faith between colleagues at work, the “have faith in him, he’ll pull through” kind. I expect you know what I mean with regards to faith in the context of interpersonal relationships? Many a movie, many a piece of fiction, harp on that kind of faith between protagonists, and how it helps and when it hurts…

    Borrowing from Erfworld, a webcomic-with-text-updates that I like very much that is set in a game-world (with the protagonist sucked into a reality based on game rules). Their “magic” is of various kinds, one of them is “date-a-mancy”, which has to do with pairing people for various benificial effects, e.g. leadership, morale, loyalty, duty, love (has influence in this game-world ;) ), “Sides tend not to keep their Date-a-mancers very long, knowing the cold truth behind our interpersonal relationships only causes grief”. Muddying the waters with more fiction? ;) I think it holds in real life too though: there’s often peace of mind and warmth found in relationships not broken down to the bare facts… Allow me also to point at this (controversial?) Seth Godin post:

    Too much data leads to not enough belief – please read it, I believe he’s onto something, and that it’s extremely relevant to the discussion. I would love to hear comments. ;) Gloss over the post’s cynicism on skeptics.

    Ah wait, back to the two definitions from tvtropes. Again: if a theist is already taking a personified deity as a fact, then “faith” is all about that same kind of inter-personal relationship I was talking about, just with regards to an omnipotent benevolent (taken on faith) being. Of course the nature of that “faith-relationship” is such that considering an atheist’s suggestions is tantamount to not maintaining relationship-faith, like starting to distrust your spouse: doing so can be utterly destructive to a relationship, so you just don’t go there. As a result, that “atheist’s-view-of-faith” tvtrope can also become true, simultaneously. Those two can be harmonious as well.

    Now seeking a post-theistic angle on this kind faith with regards to existence and life… If you’re down in the dumps, a theist could rely on faith that God will eventually deliver salvation: faith that the future will be better. (Need not have anything to do with afterlife. Again, much fiction illustrates a concept of “salvation” well.) Faith that the future will be better? Translates very much into a post-theistic worldview too. Some may need to have some notion of “fate” that they can have faith in, but I think it is also possible to have unanchored faith, “it *will* get better!” — even if the evidence looks stacked against you, even if the rational and reality based view of things would crush your hope, psychologically you might be much, much better off clinging to faith. It provides you with the motivation to do your best and radically increases your chances of actually pulling it off, or just pulling through. Imagine you’re on Haiti?

    I sometimes consider suicidal tendencies in a similar vein, which would be more of an existentialist’s answer to the “dilemma” than the absurdist’s (and sometimes I invoke absurdism too): clinging to a relationship with existence, with life, with living it, rather than giving up and quitting. I think it is psychologically functionally similar to the effect of keeping-faith-in-God once you already have a personified-theistic worldview.

    Enough for now, hope I’m clear, and at least somewhat interesting. ;)

  • 54 Hugo // Feb 10, 2010 at 2:29 am

    Similarly, de-converting can be a similar relational experience, like finding out your spouse has been cheating for a long time and actually does not want a relationship any more. Losing the faith can go through a phase of being angry at God, for letting you down, for actually not keeping promises, etc, angry at God for not existing* for example. That’s a very natural and human reaction. Thus, a relational thing, more than a “dispassionate scientific theory or hypothesis accepted because of or assumed in spite of evidence”.

    *I seem to recall reading a blog post of that kind on de-conversion.com

  • 55 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 10, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Growing up without ever having had an explanation might generally make it simpler to simply continue that way.

    :D and 2 thumbs up.

    Too much data leads to not enough belief – please read it, I believe he’s onto something, and that it’s extremely relevant to the discussion.

    Meh – I didn’t find much worthwhile in it. I do WAGs and SWAGs all the time (Wild Ass Guesses and Scientific Wild Ass Guesses.)

    Arguably, too much data even leads to wrong beliefs, as minor details get over-weighted. (I can’t find a link to this right now.) I think he’s mostly saying that facts and figures won’t convince a ‘skeptic’ who is committed enough to a different conclusion – which is surely true.

    even if the evidence looks stacked against you, even if the rational and reality based view of things would crush your hope, psychologically you might be much, much better off clinging to faith.

    If we’re thinking about the same thing, definitely. (I wouldn’t label it faith, of course.) If I’m in a desperate situation I’m going to believe I will find a way out of it even while I paradoxically know I most likely won’t find a way out of it.

  • 56 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 10, 2010 at 2:33 am

    I sucketh at the blockquote again.

    [Ed: fixed. But I shouldn't encourage people to get it wrong, or I should present them with a non-html solution.]

  • 57 Hugo // Feb 10, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Seth’s writing is mostly about marketing, but it applies elsewhere too. Ever had to grapple with “how do you teach kids about evolution?” — or how to get them passionate about any scientific topic for that matter. ;) You don’t flood them with data. Thus I think he suggests you rather run with your tribe and get them all passionate, than worry about trying to prove through evidence that those insisting on taking a skeptical angle should join. It does raise some thoughts around the role of Al Gore and the political mosh pit with regards to global warming.

    If we’re thinking about the same thing, definitely. (I wouldn’t label it faith, of course.)

    Agreed.

    BTW there’s another angle on these kinds of thoughts:

    In the process of challenging your past worldview, you start to question everything. You start applying skepticism and burden-of-proof to all aspects of your life. Through that process you undergo a liberating paradigm shift, empirically concluding that this all-out skepticism “works”. So you keep it up. Until you start discovering what babies you threw out with the bathwater: you find a number of realms in which that useful mental discipline is in fact not so useful, but rather a liability. You find it undermines your self-confidence, hinders the establishment and building of various kinds of relationships, and paralyses your work, makes you ineffective, because you’re constantly questioning whether you’re doing things in the best way possible, seeking errors in your ways instead of picking a good approximation and running with it to get the work done. The important stuff you realise you’ve lost in so many places might or might not be labelled “faith”, but did lump it together with what used to be your harmful-fundie-notion of faith and threw it out simultaneously. To bring back the good and important stuff that you lost, you discover you’ve got to go dumpster-diving in what is effectively your “faith dumpster”. Thus you also can’t help but observe how well the useful things you fish out correlate to the “wisdom tradition” (have faith!) that used to be linked to your fundie-faith-notion.

  • 58 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 10, 2010 at 8:34 am

    @Hugo:

    it is very possible to take a nihilistic angle then: “see, it’s just the genes that cause me to be good. I can transcend, I need not be a slave to my genes.”

    It’s an incorrect argument anyway. Pure genetic determinism = wrong!

    By all means, they are likely to retaliate, but if you don’t mind, then whahey, fair game! So it still comes down to a choice not based on evidence (except maybe evidence that the majority of humanity appears to live lives that feel more fulfilled if they are good to one another).

    I think you’ve answered your own question to some extent here…

    BTW have you ever watched Dexter? (The serial killer, not the smartest boy you’ve ever seen with a sister named Didi…)

    KomPYOOter!

  • 59 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 10, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Ever had to grapple with “how do you teach kids about evolution?” — or how to get them passionate about any scientific topic for that matter.

    Ummm… ;-)

  • 60 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 10, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Slightly off-topic, but interesting nonetheless: new paper out!

    Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, Trends Cogn. Sci. 2010. The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product?

    http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613%2809%2900289-7?large_figure=true

  • 61 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 11, 2010 at 3:37 am

    But I shouldn’t encourage people to get it wrong

    Oh, believe me, I am not thinking ‘Hugo will fix it.’ I just make plenty of dumb mistakes. :)

  • 62 Bendul // Feb 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    ooh nice thread!

    will contribute soon…

  • 63 Bendul // Feb 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    The moral life is one that has to do with the substance of things hoped for (that everyone lives out goodness to one another), and evidence of things not seen (where the “godliness”/goodness/love that you live out towards everyone around you, everyone you come across, bears good fruits going forward, towards other people – that often takes some kind of faith to “assume”, “this is worth it, even if it often looks like it is wasted, if evidence can often be found that it isn’t helping, I will still continue living it out, because I also have *reason to believe* it is worthwhile”).

    I want to stab at a different interpetation of this. what if the substance of things hoped for is in a sense “being the change you want to see in the world” becoming the substance of the things you hope for? what if the evidence of things not seen refers to going against the mainstream – the things seen (selfishness, hate, arrogance) – and providing evidence that there is hope for contrived mankind?

    I flatly reject the fundi reading of the bible that BenJammin underlines – the interpretation that forces such a passage in to our modern paradigm – so it can only be taken at face value: i.e. ;literally. I have turned my back on that theology – it lacked integrity in my experience. There are other ways. Hugo is trying his best to communicate them. I would do no better.

  • 64 Precepts and Faith // Feb 23, 2010 at 1:12 am

    [...] month ago I wrote the post There’s No Such Thing as “Faith”. This intended to challenge the “contemporary fundamentalist” or [...]

  • 65 Tony // Mar 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I only disagree with anyone who says that there is no evidence that God exists. This simply tells me that anyone who says that obviously has not read the bible or asked God to give them understanding which is what God’s word tells you to do. There is an enormous amount of proof. Talking about being enlightened and self aware is fine, well if these people are soooo smart then why can’t they create life. They cannot, they can manipulate what is already there such as cloning however no human can create life from scratch such as God did. They should be able to stop death however I have not seen one human that could do that. Read the bible and look at the history of Israel. The bible was written by human hand no doubt but inspired by a perfect God. There were things predicted about Israel that have been coming true for a very long time. One instance started in the 1040’s. There is an abundance of evidence however you can justify anything if you don’t want to believe and that is fine.

  • 66 Hugo // Mar 21, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Tony! Thanks for stopping by.

    Are you sticking around a bit, or were you just passing through? I’m wondering if you are interested in understanding why others say there is no evidence? (Or maybe you do already understand that and just disagree?)

    I should probably take less of a “third person” angle. However for me to get involved we would probably first talk about what is meant by “God exists” (defining God?) For example, you could consider there to be “evidence” that some mysterious things will likely will never be fully explained. If you define God as the answers or source of answers for such mysteries, or the “ground of being” as Paul Tillich did, then God certainly exists, but it would be a tautological “argument” — mostly existence by definition.

    By the way, on the creation of life: there are some research groups working on creating artificial life. One group is even exploring non-water-based life. Such research immediately raises philosophical questions around “what is life?” ;)

  • 67 Kenneth Oberlander // Mar 22, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Tony. Welcome. Hope you’re not a drive-by.

    I only disagree with anyone who says that there is no evidence that God exists.

    Could you tell us what evidence you have?

    This simply tells me that anyone who says that obviously has not read the bible

    Which version?

    or asked God

    Which god?

    to give them understanding which is what God’s word tells you to do.

    Again, precisely which gods word are we talking about here?

    There is an enormous amount of proof.

    Can you tell me how you would define the word proof?

    Talking about being enlightened and self aware is fine, well if these people are soooo smart then why can’t they create life.

    People create life every day. Smart or dumb, they appear to pursue the process of creating life with some enthusiasm…

    OK, snarky answers aside, I’d say we’re pretty close to creating life. If you take the basis of life to be self-replication, then we’ve managed that, however primitively, in the lab. True, cell-based life eludes us, but with one important caveat: we haven’t made it yet.

    They cannot,

    Not so fast with the blanket denials. Absence of evidence and all that…

    they can manipulate what is already there such as cloning however no human can create life from scratch

    Can you tell me how the existence of god follows from this argument?

    such as God did.

    Hmmm…Praise be to Loki! Or Set! Or Cthulhu? Quetzalcoatl? I’ve always been fond of Demeter…anyone who can get plants to grow on command is All Right in my book.

    They should be able to stop death

    How? Surely CPR counts as stopping death? Antibiotics?

    however I have not seen one human that could do that.

    To be honest, I’ve yet to see a god do that either… :P

    Read the bible and look at the history of Israel.

    The Bible and the history of Israel are often two very different things…could you elaborate?

    The bible was written by human hand no doubt but inspired by a perfect God.

    I agree with the first part. But if the 2nd bit is true, which version of the Bible is closest to the perfect one?

    There were things predicted about Israel that have been coming true for a very long time.

    That’s the wonderful thing about being in a world populated by primates that are biased towards false positives…

    One instance started in the 1040’s.

    Really? More info please.

    There is an abundance of evidence

    Please define evidence.

    however you can justify anything if you don’t want to believe and that is fine.

    I would turn this right around and say you can justify anything if you want to believe. This would hardly constitute evidence. Of course, this does depend on your definitionof the latter…

  • 68 Bruce // May 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    The moral life is one that has to do with the substance of things hoped for (that everyone lives out goodness to one another), and evidence of things not seen (where the “godliness”/goodness/love that you live out towards everyone around you, everyone you come across, bears good fruits going forward, towards other people – that often takes some kind of faith to “assume”, “this is worth it, even if it often looks like it is wasted, if evidence can often be found that it isn’t helping, I will still continue living it out, because I also have *reason to believe* it is worthwhile”).

    I want to stab at a different interpetation of this. what if the substance of things hoped for is in a sense “being the change you want to see in the world” becoming the substance of the things you hope for? what if the evidence of things not seen refers to going against the mainstream – the things seen (selfishness, hate, arrogance) – and providing evidence that there is hope for contrived mankind?

    I flatly reject the fundi reading of the bible that BenJammin underlines – the interpretation that forces such a passage in to our modern paradigm – so it can only be taken at face value: i.e. ;literally. I have turned my back on that theology – it lacked integrity in my experience. There are other ways. Hugo is trying his best to communicate them. I would do no better.

  • 69 Hugo // May 27, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Hi Bruce! Thanks for the comment.

    I’m curious: you had some experience with the fundi paradigm by the sounds of it (as do many of us). At what point did you turn your back on it, when did you most feel it lacked integrity?

  • 70 Sallie // Jul 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Faith is believing with the only evidence being that God said it in His word. This then requires faith in the Scriptures that is not just man made but “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” 2 Tim 3:16 and “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”2 Pe 1:21. Fundamental to faith then is revealed on whose authority do we base it. Seeing that The Holy Spirit authored the Bible and used men to communicate the concepts, doctrines, reproofs, etc that God wanted us to have so that we would be have what is necessary for training in righteousness. Without believing that God is the author of the Bible first all the rest falls apart. As we see here, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
    And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place.” 2 Pe 1:16-19.

    The Bible is the reliable Word of God. Follow this thought by reading
    John 1. Fascinating and uplifting.

    I have a document that gives several evidences that are not subjective to prove the Bible isn’t like any other book. Some of these are scientific and provable in our physical world.

    ~Peace, Sallie

  • 71 Hugo // Jul 25, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Sallie! Thanks for stopping by.

    What were some of your impressions of the post above, if you read it? (I ended up babbling on my own doubts about the value of this post in the next post. But nevermind.) If you have even just one word to share on it, that’d be nice. (Can be a nasty/negative word too! Don’t be shy. ;) )

    If you’re interested in a conversation, here’s another thing I’d like to hear your opinion about. I’ve heard a number of divergent theological viewpoints on this particular question, and I’m wondering where you weigh in, mostly for reasons of your word choice. Explaining what I mean by quoting:

    You define “faith” in the context of “Christian faith” as:

    Faith is believing with the only evidence being that God said it in His word.

    At the end of your comment, you mention a document that contains things you consider to be evidence:

    I have a document that gives several evidences that are not subjective to prove the Bible isn’t like any other book.

    How do you feel the search for that kind of “evidence” influences faith as you defined it? Does finding other evidence detract from faith, for example?

    Also: I really don’t mean to drag you into a debate against your wishes. If you are interested in having some discussion, giving me an idea of what you’d consider worthwhile would be useful. (Time frame / number of comments? And if you have an opinion on this, what you’re willing to discuss, or if I steer in a direction you’re not interested, tell me openly what you’re not interested in discussing – we’re all under time pressure.)

    Either way, have a good day!

  • 72 Sallie // Jul 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for commenting. To clarify, the foundation of faith in anything is based on who says it and trusting the source to be accurate. I rest my faith in the Bible as the basis of faith. There are other resources that may support the Bible but these do not replace it. It is not faith in them that I would rely on.

    Do those resources detract from faith? I don’t think so. Setting out to search for other evidences for the purpose of proving it before believing seems to fall under doubting to me. I don’t know where I obtained the paper and unfortunately can’t find it. I will continue to look as time allows. (Need to do some housecleaning to the file cabinet.)

    No one but God was here during creation based on the Genesis story. Adam was sleeping when Eve was made. Even in that perfect world they both had to accept by faith that God said He made everything. During the fall man where the serpent under the control of Satan tempted Eve, tried to use part of what God said against her to support his position. He planted in her seeds of doubting what God had said, God’s word.

    This is the basic doubt. The children of Israel didn’t go into Canaan after the spies checked out the land because of unbelief. “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” Heb 4: 1, 2; 3:19.

    There is so much on this topic. Everybody needs to study and pray for divine guidance. I once found myself not solid in a few areas and prayed for THE TRUTH. I was willing to let go of what I, at that time, thought was true. (this can trip some people up.) I do believe there is absolute truth. Some people want to be right. I am one of them. However, I discovered that in my quest to be right, I could find myself dead wrong-and for eternity in this case. So instead of focusing on the desire to be right, I focused on knowing Truth. That way I’ll have both.

    Here’s a simple analogy of absolute truth. Where do you think North is (the north that typical navigators use)? North is not north because you or I say it is. North is so because of absolutes. Same can be done with an oak piece of furniture. There are some good fakes out there. An argument could ensue over if it is really oak or not. What is the truth? It is or is not oak regardless of my opinion or belief. Does this make sense?

    I say these things about absolute truth because there are many who debate it and lose focus on “trusting in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Pro 3:5,6.

    I hope my comments added value to the discussion.

    Sallie

  • 73 Hugo // Jul 27, 2010 at 12:39 am

    If we’re to have a good discussion, we should probably be clear on the differences in our worldviews, which could inform where we may find common ground, and what would be worthwhile to discuss.

    You bring up reference to Genesis for example. I consider the first eleven chapters to be narratives of an allegorical/metaphorical nature. (This is a view shared by very many Christian denominations, mainline and other.)

    My definition of “faith” differs a bit from yours (yours was “the foundation of faith in anything is based on who says it and trusting the source to be accurate”, I can share more on mine if you’re interested, else nevermind).

    Absolute truth: I’m completely in agreement that there is truth out there that can be sought, and that often honestly seeking it and letting it transform your views requires being open to the possibility of being dead wrong on numerous things. The “north” and “oak” examples could be made to work for me. There are e.g. niggles on “north” actually not being a fixed point, and magnetic north not being the same as so-called “true north”, but yes, fact is there’s a particular direction that a compass needle would point (as used by navigators), and if something’s made from oak, it’s made from oak, irrespective of my opinions about it. Slightly hazy at this point as to what these analogies are to contribute to the discussion, but they can serve as useful things to refer to later.

    In terms of discussion, I seek to learn about your views. If you’d like to learn about my views, ask and I’ll be happy to share. So more things I’m curious about:

    Whereabouts are you, could you define some of your “spiritual context”, church community for example? What have you been taught, or what have you learned, about the origins of the Canon? (About how the collections of texts/books/letters/poems/proverbs we know as the “New Testament” and “Old Testament” came to be, how inclusion and exclusion was determined?) What are your views on the faith of non-literalists (I take it you’re a literalist), that don’t consider Genesis 1 to 11 to be “historical-factual”?

    I’m quite a fan of a “grappling” kind of faith, where multiple interpretations of the text are juxtaposed with one another, in dynamic tension, a tradition stretching back into Christianity’s roots, Judaism. Those are the things that are the most transformational in my experience. (The video clip in this post is a good summary of this approach: Reduce or Wrestle).

    Hope you also find this conversation worthwhile or at least interesting,
    Hugo

  • 74 Hugo // Jul 27, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Sorry, I also meant to mention about the article:

    I don’t know where I obtained the paper and unfortunately can’t find it. I will continue to look as time allows. (Need to do some housecleaning to the file cabinet.)

    Don’t worry about it, to be honest I’m not very interested in the article. (More in your views.) The reason? I’ve seen many articles of that kind, and for me, most really didn’t contribute much to a discussion (or actually they do, but they usually contribute to discussion about why they’re not contributing much. ;) )

  • 75 Kenneth Oberlander // Jul 27, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Hi all.

    @sally

    Here’s a simple analogy of absolute truth. Where do you think North is (the north that typical navigators use)? North is not north because you or I say it is. North is so because of absolutes.

    Ahem.

    *puts on pedanto-monocle*

    North is a convention. Like the meter. Or kilogram. It is only absolute by agreed-upon definition, which means that it can change. It is precisely north because you and I say it is.

    Not to mention that there are many norths. Geographical north, magnetic north, galactic north…and they are not the same thing. Each planet and star has it’s own north, and they don’t point in the same direction. Not to mention that they change over time.

    Same can be done with an oak piece of furniture. There are some good fakes out there. An argument could ensue over if it is really oak or not. What is the truth? It is or is not oak regardless of my opinion or belief. Does this make sense?

    But you can test to see if it is oak. Members of the genus Quercus have characteristic wood characters that a plant anatomist can look for to determine if it is oak. Granted, there are very good fakes, but I think you can (generally) determine the origins of a piece of wood to a (mostly) satisfactory level of confidence.

    I have a document that gives several evidences that are not subjective to prove the Bible isn’t like any other book. Some of these are scientific and provable in our physical world.

    Pity you can’t find this. I would have liked to have seen this evidence.

    The Bible is the reliable Word of God. Follow this thought by reading John 1. Fascinating and uplifting.

    I don’t doubt the last two descriptors. But how can you be so certain of the first sentence?

    @Hugo
    Howzit dude. How are things? Did you ever get a chance to read that paper I linked to in #60?

  • 76 Hugo // Jul 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Hi Kenneth! No I haven’t actually. Will do soon, thanks for pointing me at it again! I’ve another pair of similar articles waiting somewhere in my email inbox.

    (BTW articles via links like that are often not free, but it’s usually possible to find other copies, eg: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=831181812840571320&hl=en&as_sdt=2000)

  • 77 Kenneth Oberlander // Jul 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Yep I know. That’s why I asked…was uncertain whether you had institutional access…

  • 78 Hennie de Villiers // Jul 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Hey Hugo, chiming in very late but thought this might be relevant. Some things I’ve pieced together so far:

    It has been said that, in Zen practice, that one needs Great Faith, Great Doubt and Great Determination. Our habitual way of defining faith and doubt render this statement paradoxical. At this point, let Great Doubt kick in and try to determine what is ACTUALLY meant by the statement (assuming that you have enough Faith in the intentions of the framer of the statement, and the Determination to figure out what it means) ;)

    There’s a surprisingly good article by Barbara O’Brien here:
    http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/faithdoubt.htm

    Quoting from the article quoting Sensei Sevan Ross, director of the Chicago Zen Center:

    “Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice — gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place.”

    I can only maybe add that, in the absence of Doubt, blind faith means you end up missing the treasures or traps that may be lying about. In the absence of Faith, doubt gets as far as calling the stick ugly, without trying to figure out what it *might* pointing towards (however waveringly). Without Determination, we don’t even get as far as this.

    Also, something I recently read (I *think* in something by Karen Armstrong) is that the actual meaning of the word “belief” has shifted considerably over the course of the last few centuries. Another reference (I’d have prefered to find another one, but need to get back to work on The Thesis) states:

    “… Belief used to mean “trust in God,” while faith meant “loyalty to a person based on promise or duty” (a sense preserved in keep one’s faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of L. fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to “mental acceptance of something as true,” from the religious use in the sense of “things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine” (early 13c.)”
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=belief

    As I understand it, medieval Scholasticism and ultimately, ironically, the Enlightenment, had a lot to do with this shift in meaning.

    It doesn’t take much to see that there is actually a deep similarity between the older sense of “belief” in Western traditions, and that I encountered in Zen Buddhism. I would caution against having a reflexive twitch at the G-word (“trust in God”), as one might use non-theistic language to do the pointing (I kind of like “believing in Mind”, see the section “On believing in Mind” at http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/mzb/mzb04.htm as translated by D. Suzuki). I actually think, though, that the different emphasis in the advice “trust in God” is quite helpful in many ways for certain students at certain times.

  • 79 Hugo // Jul 27, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    @Sallie – I was also drifting a bit off topic. To return to a question that is more relevant to this post, so maybe it’s more useful to talk about your faith in the Bible directly. Where does that come from?

    Consider the definition I don’t like:

    Faith is merely belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking.

    Does this describe your faith? For this particular discussion, let’s scrap arguing over what constitutes evidence. (Unless you’d like to discuss that.) Reason: Kenneth is here, he’s a scientist, we’ll then be discussing the definition of empirical evidence. ;) I’m interested in what you experienced to be worthwhile evidence, for example (on my hypothesis that it is at least psychologically similar to a scientist’s experience of evidence).

    Definitions you mentioned:

    Faith is believing with the only evidence being that God said it in His word.

    the foundation of faith in anything is based on who says it and trusting the source to be accurate

    Thus you build faith on the trusting of a particular source. The trust of that source, is that based on, in your experience, a process of non-thinking, a lack of evidence? (I doubt it?) Or are there things that you consider/experience as evidence for the trustworthyness of the source? I expect the latter, and I was wondering if you could share more about that? Why did you start trusting the source that you trust?

    (@Hennie, I’ll respond later. Thanks a lot for sharing! Love it. Connects to “Reduce or Wrestle” for me.)

  • 80 Sallie // Jul 28, 2010 at 1:09 am

    @Hugo & @ Kenneth
    I accept the Bible as the foundational authority in matters of faith and life and upholds Christ as the only Savior of the world.
    “The entirety of Your word is truth” Ps 119:60

    “Bible is the Word of God–the inspired, infallible revelation of truth in written form. The Bible is its own interpreter, provides the foundation and context for scholarship and the totality of life, and is the unerring standard for doctrine and experience.

    I endorse the use of historical-grammatical, biblical interpretation of the Scripture, recognizing the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s aid in so doing. I reject the use of any method in biblical study that retains the principle of criticism which subordinates the Bible to human reason, tradition, or experience.

    I affirm the literal reading and meaning of Genesis 1-11 as an objective, factual account of earth’s origin and early history; that the world was created in six literal, consecutive, contiguous 24-hour days; that the earth was subsequently devastated by a literal global flood, and that the time elapsed since creation week is to be measured in terms of a short chronology of a few thousand years.” (There are many scientists that believe this and offer evidence.)

    The fact that many use the critical method to interpret is not a reason to support and use it. The Bible is its own interpreter and not of private interpretation.

    I don’t base my faith in the Bible on my experience. This I feel would be subjective. This doesn’t mean that my faith is not experienced. I am talking about having a relationship with the Living God in the person of Jesus. That is an experience! He is everything.

    You don’t like this definition: Faith is merely belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking. Neither do I. However it is the last part that is mostly incorrect.

    Ex. In the Bible one can find their identity in Christ. Experiences or how people may define us often challenge that and it can take much active thinking to take the Word over these. Trusting in the Word, focusing on what God says about me as what is true not what a person said is faith. Faith in the Word is faith in who wrote the Word, meaning who inspired it. This is beyond believing, it is trusting when all your senses tell you not to. The other side of trusting where faith has been tested is a deeper level of trust and faith. His word proves itself true and our relationship with God grows.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you speak of evidence. Typically, it’s referred to something provable. Let me try…
    Jesus said He told the disciples beforehand so that when it came true they would believe. One evidence for us is prophecy. To my knowledge the Bible is the only religious book with prophecy.
    Prophecy that came true: Daniel 2 & 7
    Nebuchadnezzar had a dream then couldn’t remember it. He requested the magicians etc to tell the dream and what it meant. They were about to be destroyed because they were unable to do it when Daniel stepped in asking to have time to ask God. He does and has a dream presents it to the king gets confirmation that this is the dream the king had. This could be suspect if it weren’t for the fact that Daniel also gives the interpretation. It is one of the longest prophecies in the Bible spanning from Babylon to our day something Daniel could never have predicted on his own. Giant statue of metals from gold, silver, bronze, iron and iron mixed with clay. Babylon is the head of gold, next was Medo-Persia silver, Greece bronze, Rome iron. They were noted as inferior to Babylon as silver and bronze are inferior to gold. Even though the nations that conquered the one before it are not mentioned the metal that is used to represent them are and accurately so. Babylon (is mentioned obviously) is represented by gold…”Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces.” describes Rome well.

    Now compare this to Dan 7 where another dream is given. This time beasts are used to represent the same nations. Note the 3rd beast “like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird” Greece represented as swift and fast. Alexander the Great had that reputation.
    Also, again the 4th beast with iron teeth rightly representing the way Rome conquered.
    Just a sampling of evidence. :)

    How did I come to trust in God’s word as reliable?
    I honestly can’t remember not believing that. Even at 5 I had a relationship with God-Jesus. I knew He could be trusted, I could trust His word. I did the “teenager” thing but still never doubted. Since becoming an adult I have tested the Word (I hope this doesn’t open up a new can of worms for anyone) to never fail.

    Last, I gave the example of north and oak as simplistic as may be for trying to show absolute truth.

    Peace,
    Sallie

  • 81 Hugo // Jul 28, 2010 at 2:34 am

    (A quick aside, to e.g. Ben-Jammin’ et al, I acknowledge that my primary hypothesis is not holding up well. I don’t mean to grasp at straws below, I just mean to give it the best chance possible, before dismissing it — in the context of Sallie’s faith.)

    Sallie, I’m in the process of learning my views were wrong. Thanks for your detailed comment, pardon another couple of questions. I intend to make these my last, if I can get them right.

    You take a literal reading, you reject modern biblical scholars’ approach. You reject scholars’ suggestion that the Book of Daniel was written in the second century BC. You reject the majority of modern science. I What I’m trying to understand, is why.

    Proponents of the definition we both dislike would consider this an example of “active non-thinking” about the origins of the text. Is that really the case?

    Below a number of “why” questions about your views and your keeping of your views, some repetition, though it’s really just one big question, might have a short answer. Hopefully the compounded question serves to get as close to what I referred to with “evidence” above as is possible.

    How did I come to trust in God’s word as reliable?
    I honestly can’t remember not believing that.

    Recap and questions (not meant as me giving an explanation): you were taught this belief as a pre-schooler, you grew up with this belief. Did you ever give it a “critical” thought? (I think you could critically analyse the belief even while believing it, so it’s not precluded by what you’ve shared so far.) If you did consider, for some time, that this belief could be wrong, what made you conclude it was indeed correct?

    Otherwise, if you didn’t ever consider that the belief could be wrong, why not? Was it… fear of hell, should you dare to risk doubting? (I understand literalist-style Christianity has a very negative view of doubt.) Rephrased, was it because you believe it to be wrong to even consider that those beliefs could be wrong? Or was it simply not wanting to go against the flow, make waves, stand out, challenge the views of the world around you (the culture of your community and family)? Was it because maintaining that belief allows you to “be right” (you mentioned you like being right – though it might take some work to get there), whereas the path of contemporary science and higher criticism would leave you without the opportunity to be right and believe you have a hold on “absolute truth”? Or was it something else, something more?

    What convinced you that the belief you grew up with was worth holding on to?

    You do touch a bit on this:

    Even at 5 I had a relationship with God-Jesus. I knew He could be trusted, I could trust His word.

    How did you know that? (I’m going by the assumption that it wasn’t “active non-thinking” about the matter, it was something more profound, right?)

    I did the “teenager” thing but still never doubted. Since becoming an adult I have tested the Word (I hope this doesn’t open up a new can of worms for anyone) to never fail.

    That’s fine for me, though maybe answers to further questions could end up opening cans of worms for Kenneth. ;) You know the method of science is empirical testing. The thing a scientific view of the world considers “evidence” is that which comes out of objective de-biased empirical experiments. And a scientific experiment need not be “active”, it could be digging up fossils or simply looking at the spectrum of light from distant stars — if there’s a prediction/expectation and some data that indicates whether the prediction/expectation is correct, that counts as evidence.

    Thus this “testing the Word” is great, I think. It is on-topic for the hypothesis I’m considering in this post and conversation. You do testing, you find results, you experience that (subjectively) as evidence. Does that sound right? (Remember: objective evidence is also subjectively experienced as evidence. I’m throwing in “subjectively” not in order to say “not objectively”, but just to sidestep the objectivity question for the purpose of this conversation. Reason: Kenneth will be quick to point out human cognitive biases and the measures necessary to form scientific objective conclusions. And I would also be tempted to do the same, this stuff fascinates me, but that’s not what I’m trying to discuss, hence I consciously try to leave it out.)

    That mostly concludes my “primary question”. The Book of Daniel presents another opportunity to ask about the Canon though:

    Three additional sections are preserved only in the Septuagint, and are considered apocryphal by Protestant Christians and Jews, and deuterocanonical by Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

    In the light of that, do you have some thoughts on why you accept the version of the Bible you read? You read twelve chapters of Daniel, is it of any concern to you that there could be three additional sections to Daniel that you don’t read? (And why does or doesn’t this concern you?)

    Thanks Sallie, apologies if I’m wearing you out. I will do my utmost to ask no more questions, these *must* be my final ones. *Grrr.* I should succeed, I seem to manage these days to not bore people with my opinions if they’re not interested. ;) (After all, I’m sure you have already come across many of the opinions I hold, your previous comment pre-emptively address them.)

    Now addressing any spectators following or reading this: if you’re curious or keen to have a discussion about any of the points in Sallie’s post that I haven’t commented on, speak up! I’d be happy to hear your opinion and to share mine. I strive to no longer babble on about viewpoints that would be of no interest or value to the people I’m talking to — thus me not wanting to drag Sallie into a discussion like that.

    Thanks again Sallie, peace to you too.

  • 82 Kenneth Oberlander // Jul 28, 2010 at 8:40 am

    @Sallie

    I reject the use of any method in biblical study that retains the principle of criticism which subordinates the Bible to human reason, tradition, or experience.

    Why? How have you decided that criticism of a book should be rejected?

    (There are many scientists that believe this and offer evidence.)

    Hold on. Who? Can you give me examples of who this might be, and what kind of evidence they have?

    @Hugo

    Reason: Kenneth will be quick to point out human cognitive biases and the measures necessary to form scientific objective conclusions.

    Am I that predictable? :P
    *wanders off, grumbling…*

  • 83 Hennie // Jul 28, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Hi all :) Did a bit of a pre-emptive pounce with my previous comment. I apologise if it comes a bit out of the blue.

    @Hugo Thanks, I’ve had a quick look at the “Reduce or Wrestle” post (haven’t been around for a while), thought the quote you selected was really cool

    the essence,
    not that we find the right answer, but that we
    wrestle with the tradition
    fight with it
    love it
    are transformed by it…

    I can definitely identify with it. I wonder though, if somebody said that it all sounds a bit quixotic, how would you respond? The line “not that we find the right answer” might create that impression.

    In the meantime, I’ve had a slower look through the comment thread. Sorry if the following is a bit long, and I’m curious about the other posts too, but in trying to respond to Sallie’s comments, I think I’ve written enough for now ;) What I’m trying to do, is establish what the core of your (Sallie’s) experience is.

    @Sallie, the following from your earlier posts was particularly interesting

    I once found myself not solid in a few areas and prayed for THE TRUTH. I was willing to let go of what I, at that time, thought was true. (this can trip some people up.) I do believe there is absolute truth. Some people want to be right. I am one of them. However, I discovered that in my quest to be right, I could find myself dead wrong-and for eternity in this case. So instead of focusing on the desire to be right, I focused on knowing Truth. That way I’ll have both.

    If I understand correctly, you are drawing a distinction (though not necessarily separating) truth (relative) and Truth (absolute). I apologize if I’m misreading your comments, but trying to find a connection. Is the following accurate?

    1. Knowledge, whether scientific knowledge or knowledge of scriptures (let us keep knowledge OF scriptures and the knowledge IN scriptures separate, this is doable, correct?) is inherently fallible because humans are limited, error-prone creatures.
    2. Many humans (if not most humans), including yourself, like being right (in the factual sense).
    3. However, because we are inherently fallible, we can’t expect to be right about life-the-universe-and-everything. (I’m very much in line with Kenneth et al. when it comes to actually testable knowledge, but I believe what you’re actually trying to get at goes beyond this).
    4. The desire to be right (factually) is, therefore, not *inherently* flawed, but you can never be certain whether you are factually correct, and so the desire, the *actual* source of your specific problem (not of a factual nature, but of a human/spiritual nature), will never go away. So pursuing factual knowledge, while a worthwhile end in itself, is not getting to the heart of the matter you’re talking about.

    5. From your scriptural reference:

    I say these things about absolute truth because there are many who debate it and lose focus on “trusting in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

    Meaning, we sometimes end up debating within the domain of the knowable, but the totality of what a human is goes beyond that (in the sense that rational, propositional thought is a subsystem of our larger mind, one of the senses if you will).
    6. Recap: From (4), in the absence of truth which is 100% reliable (in the factual sense, but we can certainly find closer and closer approximations to it!), so we must find a different foundation if that particular human yearning is ever to be satisfied (from 5, more or less).

    Now I definitely go out on a limb, not sure if the following is what you mean at all, so I’ll keep this part short until I’ve heard what you have to say. No point if I’m completely misreading you.

    7. When we go beyond the rational, all we can do is be still and Listen (metaphorically, not necessarily hearing or language related). If we do this with complete trust, what we are aligned with is the Truth. (I think the scriptural reference Ps 46:10 “Be still, and known that I am God” is connected to this)
    8. By being aligned with (having) the Truth, you are also right in the sense that you are alright, you are justified, not quite the same sense as factual correctness. Ie. I suspect there was this shift in meaning (in “right”) in your writing.

    Perhaps you might render the experience as: The Truth is made known out of Grace (not by our own efforts, it is just always, inevitably, made available), and Faith is the result of being transformed by Grace, allowing you to live more and more in communion with the Truth (but this transformation begins with trust, which is, paradoxically, both up to us (relative sense) and not up to us (absolute sense)). Having Faith, you have answered the question you needed answering, it’s just that you asked the wrong question initially. This is, as I understand, justification by Faith (or equally, justification by Grace, two sides of the same coin, but I think the differing emphasis of the two is actually quite valuable).

    Hopefully this at least begins to be an approximation of what you’re getting at, but fire away regardless :)

  • 84 Ben-Jammin' // Jul 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    A quick aside, to e.g. Ben-Jammin’ et al, I acknowledge that my primary hypothesis is not holding up well

    I’m just reading along. :)

    http://a.imageshack.us/img517/4210/popcornxy2.jpg

  • 85 Hugo // Aug 5, 2010 at 12:33 am

    @Hennie’s #78, I love this paragraph:

    It has been said that, in Zen practice, that one needs Great Faith, Great Doubt and Great Determination. Our habitual way of defining faith and doubt render this statement paradoxical. At this point, let Great Doubt kick in and try to determine what is ACTUALLY meant by the statement (assuming that you have enough Faith in the intentions of the framer of the statement, and the Determination to figure out what it means) ;)

    With the history of the English word “belief” considered, and a shift in meaning between the 14th and 16th century, I guess nitty discussions about “belief” and “faith” need to have some idea of which sense is being talked about. The old sense? The contemporary sense? The original sense of the original Hebrew and Greek words translated to “belief” and “faith” in contemporary translations of the Bible?

    Why talk about finicky words though, more interesting is the discussions of concepts that carry value, like that trinity of Greats — more value to be had in discussing what that paragraph is talking about, than what other specific meanings individual words from the paragraph might carry. (Reductionism breaking the bigger picture?)

  • 86 Al // Aug 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Ola!!

    My name is Jose Ramirez

    I was sponsored to came to you very beautiful country, er too ah, vea mi victoria of my country win the World Cup soccer. Ole!!! Ole!!! Sorry, I pick up wallet. Other man’s wallet outside Soccer City. I look inside, but … something make me cough very badly. And I must cough and cough and cough and then cough some more. Then Jose Ramirez, able to stop coughing (something in air?) and er, look inside the wallet but … I swear on los Madre, it has no dinero … er, what you say – money inside – only owner’s driver’s licence – say’s man who own wallet is Angus Buchan. Nothing else except business cards, lots and lots of business cards.

    You help Ramirez – Maybe some these people know him from business card: Ray McCauley, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, T.B Joshua, Christ Multimedia Publishing, Holy Ghost Events R Us!!, Shofar, New Generation Fellowship, Lighthouse, Hillsong Corporate and CUM – sorry, too many other cards … but maybe some of these business friend I list maybe know this man.

    Help me return his wallet to him. I’m not go away. I find very nice new place to live in you country – called Clifton – I buy big house on third beach and all I can say is: Praise God!!

    Adios
    Jose Ramirez

    P.S. My phone number is 555-3983984

  • 87 Hennie // Aug 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    @Hugo: Well, I hope it makes a measure of sense :) It definitely helps to see faith more as one driving force of a dynamic, and an emergent property of that dynamic. Overemphasising faith itself is also unhealthy and unhelpful. People are rightly sceptical when someone is trying to sell them something called “faith”. The implication that they are somehow defective without this “faith” is both alienating and presumptuous.

    In discussions around concepts like faith, it seems inevitable that we run into a barrier that will never be crossed, that between the defenders of the faith and the defenders from the faith. Possibly the problem we run into is confusing faith and *the* faith. The faith being whatever we use right now to “create meaning” when we feel unsure, certainty for some for some of the time.

    I feel that faith is far more dynamic. Perhaps you said it best: There’s No Such Thing as “Faith” :) This seems related to some theologians preferring at times to say there is no God, simply because any representation we could try to construct would be limited and misleading. If faith is something special, then it is no faith at all, and becomes something brittle that needs to be defended. Specifically in the context of Christianity, I’d suggest that the Good News for Some can only ever be the Bad News. What then is the Good News? Couched in somewhat more secular terms, faith as holding the right set of ideas is holding the wrong idea about faith. That would solidly place faith in direct competition with philosophy and the sciences. If that is the case, guess which side I’m rooting for ;)

    Perhaps one way of exploring what faith might be would be to start with the assumption that every one of us reading this thread was already in the “right” state (whatever that might mean). What would faith have to be to transcend and encompass these differences without glossing over them or merely tolerating them?

    Whimsical answers to all this yakking are more than welcome ;)

  • 88 Hugo // Aug 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Hennie, you voice a number of my thoughts more eloquently than I could hope to do. ;)

    Thoughts on “keeping the faith” with regards to career: a cousin is a professional sports person at present. An entrepreneur with a new idea, won’t know if it will work, if it is worthwhile pursuing, but he holds onto it and perseveres, and may end up making a huge success of it. The dream of any startup. A person doing philanthropic work, in the front lines, dealing with it every day, possibly faced with doubts as to the efficacy of his or her efforts, or more interestingly there’s the possibility to doubt whether it’s a worthwhile way to spend your life, rather than making lots of money and then enjoying yourself (and maybe donating half of it to “charity”). I consider these to be examples of careers needing a good dose of faith to pursue, to stay motivated, to make a success of it.

  • 89 Hugo // Aug 17, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    I guess the conversation with Sallie is over. Written text doesn’t convey body language and tone very well — I remain convinced in an in-person conversation I could have gotten a better understanding via answers to some of the questions I tried to ask her above.

    Anyone here prepared to engage in the meta-conversation? My attempts at communicating the sincerity of my questions/curiosity look, even to me, really sucky. Did they come across as suckily as I fear they did? I think for what I tried to do, that wasn’t an effective way of doing it, might even have been counter-productive?

  • 90 Roy // Oct 25, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    I just stumbled upon this website and browsed through a number of the comments and find many of the thoughts and opinions expressed agreeing with what God says; “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”. I am sure He’s sitting in heaven laughing :)

    I am quite a logical thinker and maybe not as “deep” as some people that want to muddle the water with complicated science. Take a look at the most intricate design of life around you including yourself. Google all kinds of details on your anatomy, animal life, plant life, the universe and tell me honestly you believe that all this happened without intelligence and without a designer. That’s just like telling me that everything that has been thought up designed and produced by humans are not intelligent design. The God naysayers tells us that it all started with a Big Bang and has evolved ever since. Everything we see around us that works in perfect harmony from the leaf on a tree to the galaxies around us just happened over time? Now, that takes a lot of faith to believe! I guess that’s the other “religion”, because whatever you have faith in, that is your religion. Besides, why do those who do not believe in a creator God spend so much time and energy trying to prove that He does not exist. Spending time on what is not? That insanity!

    Now if you do believe in God, and most people actually say they do, the acid test would be that, if you believe the first ten words of the Bible, you would be insane not to check out what else He has to say. The question is often asked and was asked here previous; How can you know that the Bible is correct? Again, if you believe the first ten words in the Bible, don’t you think God is big enough to be able to protect His word so that it will perform what He has designed it to do and that every human being would be able to know what He is saying without error? If you don’t believe that, you probably have a small god and don’t really believe the first ten words in the Bible either. Bottom line, it comes down to faith and nothing else, because God says; “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” No argument from any so called “wise” person will convince those who have done that, otherwise.

  • 91 Hugo // Oct 25, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Hey Roy! Thanks for stopping by.

    I’m wondering if you’ve come across concepts like “argument from incredulity”?

    Mainstream science reached conclusions about evolution of living organisms through hard work and much study, the conclusion is drawn from evidence collected all around the planet, and a desire to understand (and not from a desire to disprove God’s existence, which is why Christian scientists also take part in the scientific endeavour). Evolution is a remarkable piece of science, and some commenters on this blog are scientists in that field that are also tasked with educating the next generation of scientists, to help further human knowledge — for all the benefit that brings.

    My desire for discussions here is that people better learn to understand one another’s views. Are you interested in understanding the views of some of the friendlier non-believers here, or mostly interested in trying to convert them to your views? (I think approaching with the goal of mutual understanding makes for better discussions, but also typically breaks down when the same arguments get rehashed for the thousandth time.)

    Have a good day!
    Hugo

  • 92 Ben-Jammin' // Oct 25, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Are you interested in understanding the views of some of the friendlier non-believers here, or mostly interested in trying to convert them to your views?

    I’m sure he’s already dismissed the views of us fools who are corrupt and do only vile things.

  • 93 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 25, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Hallo Roy, welcome here.

    Some thoughts on your post.

    “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”

    I’ve heard the comeback: “the wise man shouts it from every rooftop”… ;-)

    For what it’s worth, I don’t say there is no god. I just say it is so extraordinarily unlikely that it is safe not to waste any further thought on the matter.

    Take a look at the most intricate design of life around you including yourself.

    We’re certainly intricate, but by no means perfect, or evidence for a god.

    Google all kinds of details on your anatomy, animal life, plant life, the universe and tell me honestly you believe that all this happened without intelligence and without a designer.

    This is the watchmaker fallacy, I’m afraid. And, as I mentioned, if we are examples of design, then we are not examples of good design, by any manner of means. Re anatomy: our bodies are not perfect examples of design. I refer you to the recurrent laryngeal nerve, or auto-immune disease, or wisdom teeth, or sickle-cell disease, or far- or near-sightedness, as examples.

    That’s just like telling me that everything that has been thought up designed and produced by humans are not intelligent design.

    How do we know that a pot has been designed?

    Because we have evidence for design. We have blueprints, archaeological and historical accounts, entire companies devoted to the construction and improvement of the humble cooking receptacle. We have documentaries of potters making pots, advertisements for the latest designs, and a working knowledge of how and why pots are the way they are. In many cases we have seen people making pots.

    How do we know that our anatomy has been designed?


    See?

    The argument doesn’t follow.

    The God naysayers tells us that it all started with a Big Bang and has evolved ever since.

    *blink*

    I could make an argument here for a talking snake and an inconsistent Genesis story.

    The point here is, the story might sound absolutely stunningly silly. The reason it is considered seriously, is that there is evidence to support it…

    Everything we see around us that works in perfect harmony from the leaf on a tree to the galaxies around us just happened over time?

    Actually, this is a popular misconception. The world around us does not work in perfect harmony: the grace of the cheetah and the gazelle is a result of a tremendous amount of suffering and mess. The leaf on the tree is not in perfect harmony either: it must, at great cost to the plant, defend itself against dessication, predation, sun damage etc, and will not always succeed, at a further cost to the plant. It is most certainly not there for the delectation of the nearest Bambi and Thumper. Life doesn’t work like the cuisine at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe: gladly self-sacrificing for the benefit of the whole.

    Now, that takes a lot of faith to believe!

    Depends strongly on how you define faith. If you define it as a level of confidence based on evidence, it doesn’t take a lot.

    I guess that’s the other “religion”, because whatever you have faith in, that is your religion.

    Again, heavily contingent on how you define faith. And religion, while we’re at it.

    Besides, why do those who do not believe in a creator God spend so much time and energy trying to prove that He does not exist.

    Because the beliefs of those who do believe in a creator God have real-world, bread-and-butter consequences. Not all of them good.

  • 94 Roy // Oct 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I am not sure if the position of not being able to believe is actually a valid one. I believe that is self-limiting belief in the first place. Not willing is however something we encounter all the time, usually because they believe something else based on whatever influence, knowledge or information they have acquired.

    The fact is that only faith in God will provide the evidence obtained through that experience. Hence the non-believer will always argue against what they have not experienced for lack of faith.

    We use this metaphor a lot in life and particularly as entrepreneurs; “stepping out in faith”. “Jump and the net will appear” etc. Believing we will be able to achieve something without first knowing or seeing that we will have it completed. We put faith in our project. With God it is much the same way, it starts with putting faith in Him and that He will reward us when we seek him diligently. Both starts with faith. Every invention started with faith – believing before seeing. Inventors typically see things in their minds that have never been before and have faith that they can produce it although they don’t know how – yet.

    Thomas Edison, even though he tried to make something that had never been before had faith to believe that he would and actually did after an allegedly 1000 tries, said: “My mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it. What a soul may be is beyond my understanding”. Of course! That is exactly it, beyond understanding, and that is why it is impossible without faith, which he obviously did not have, by his own words. Was he not willing or not capable? He said not capable, but that’s because he used his reason instead of faith. I’m sure he had a lot of naysayers when he was working on the light bulb, but he believed it was possible and kept going until he saw the evidence.

  • 95 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 25, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Part 2.

    Now if you do believe in God, and most people actually say they do,

    Which god, exactly? Why only him/her/it/they?

    the acid test would be that, if you believe the first ten words of the Bible, you would be insane not to check out what else He has to say.

    Surely the acid test for the existence of god would be, you know, his existence?

    The question is often asked and was asked here previous; How can you know that the Bible is correct? Again, if you believe the first ten words in the Bible, don’t you think God is big enough to be able to protect His word so that it will perform what He has designed it to do and that every human being would be able to know what He is saying without error?

    You don’t think people can make exactly the same arguments about the first ten words of the Torah, or the Qu’ran, or the Book of Mormon? Or the Bhagavad Gita? Or the Ainulindale and Valaquenta? Or the Orange Catholic Bible? Or the Necronomicon?

    If you don’t believe that, you probably have a small god and don’t really believe the first ten words in the Bible either.

    I’m not entirely certain I follow your argument here.

    Bottom line, it comes down to faith and nothing else,

    Hold on. If all it takes is faith, then what is the use of all the justification of harmony and perfection as arguments for god in the previous paragraph?

    because God says; “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” No argument from any so called “wise” person will convince those who have done that, otherwise.

    Do you know what the dictionary entry is for a belief that is held against all available evidence, such as that which you express above?

    It is delusion.

    With unevidenced faith you can believe anything.

    With unevidenced faith you can justify anything.

    It doesn’t make your faith true.

    Faith is very often a terrible explanation and predictor of reality.

    Disclaimer: I’m actually not trying to mortally offend you or anything. These are my honest responses to your arguments. But I suppose if you are offended, then that’s life.

  • 96 Roy // Oct 25, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks for your response Kenneth,

    However, we will never meet logically, because you come from a mindset of fallible human reasoning and I from a position of faith which will never meet.

    All your objections above to creation are based on the current state of the world and the heavens, which is definitely not perfect as in disease free, “dog eat dog”. Crime and evil is on the increase etc. etc. However, it was created perfect until man messed it up. But that takes faith to believe and experience the evidence. Faith and human intellect will never meet. Although to me, maybe because I am now on the other side, it makes total sense. I guess, when you have experienced faith in God like I have, it also make sense. When God said “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, it almost sounds like that’s what Edison practiced when he was looking for a way to make the light bulb, but somehow he missed it when it applied to God.

    To continue this (God or no god) will, like you say, be a total waste of time. I have no idea why you spend time on it unless your reasoning is your “faith”.

    I guess we all have a desire to be right, and we all have the right to be wrong as well.

  • 97 Hugo // Oct 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Oh come on Roy…

    I have no idea why you spend time on it

    He already mentioned why he spends time on it!

    *sigh*

    So I must agree that a discussion will very likely be a waste of time.

  • 98 Hugo // Oct 25, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Sorry, frustrated. I suppose there’s just too much to read and bits like that get glossed over. I’ll quote:

    Besides, why do those who do not believe in a creator God spend so much time and energy trying to prove that He does not exist.

    Because the beliefs of those who do believe in a creator God have real-world, bread-and-butter consequences. Not all of them good.

    So: Roy, you would surely, as Christian, spend time on trying to fix severe injustices you come across. Some of the “new atheists” are similarly motivated: they perceive great injustices done in the name of religion, and hence spend time and try to fix that.

  • 99 Roy // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I just had to respond to this , although I am much needed elsewhere…

    Do you know what the dictionary entry is for a belief that is held against all available evidence, such as that which you express above?

    First of all if you had physical “evidence” it is not faith in the first place
    And who created the dictionary? Fallible human reasoning

    It is delusion.

    No, it’s called faith, which you unfortunately in this context do not understand.

    With unevidenced faith you can believe anything.

    With unevidenced faith you can justify anything.

    Again, faith that is based on things you can physically observe is not faith. You don’t need faith if you can see it!! I thought at least that was obvious.

    It doesn’t make your faith true.

    Faith is very often a terrible explanation and predictor of reality.

    That again is your opinion based on limited human intellect.

    Disclaimer: I’m actually not trying to mortally offend you or anything. These are my honest responses to your arguments. But I suppose if you are offended, then that’s life.

    I am not offended in the least, but I have to repeat from my last post that your reasoning and my faith will never meet.

    When I talked about most people believing in God, I was referring to the western Christian world, who statistically believe that, not the other religions which have thousands of God. However, only in Christianity do we have a risen Savior, and that make all the difference. Now, that is a historic fact, but you’ll probably argue that one as well and I should not have opened that lid :) In Christianity God reached out to man providing a Way (through Jesus’ Atonement for our sins) to get back to the perfect fellowship with Him and eventually restoring all things as they were (in perfect order). All other religions are based on man reaching out to their god(s)).

    I got work to do, so bye for now…

  • 100 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:04 am

    No worries. Thanks for yours.

    However, we will never meet logically, because you come from a mindset of fallible human reasoning and I from a position of faith which will never meet.

    Hmmm…I am most willing to concede that human reasoning can be fallible. I would very much like to know how you can be so certain that your reasoning isn’t.

    All your objections above to creation are based on the current state of the world and the heavens, which is definitely not perfect as in disease free, “dog eat dog”.

    Then what exactly was your argument on the perfect harmony etc of the universe?

    Crime and evil is on the increase etc. etc.

    Really? Worse than the two World Wars?

    However, it was created perfect until man messed it up. But that takes faith to believe and experience the evidence.

    Can you consider the possibility that you might be wrong about this? Why do you discard this possibility?

    Faith and human intellect will never meet.

    I think they do, all the time. The results aren’t always very constructive, though ;-)

    it almost sounds like that’s what Edison practiced when he was looking for a way to make the light bulb, but somehow he missed it when it applied to God.

    Sorry, I missed your original Edison post. Where I disagree is as follows: Edison had a sound basis of knowledge to guide his quest, namely, that things tend to glow when heated,and that electrical current can provide heat. So his search for a substance that could be used as a source of electrical illumination was not based on faith as you define it. Namely, he had confidence, defined as justified true belief, that a good material was available, in nature, that he could use for his purposes, and he had a general idea of at least some of its properties. It wasn’t a blind shot in the dark, trust to faith quest at all. He used his considerable practical knowledge to guide his quest. So the analogy fails.

    I have no idea why you spend time on it

    Because some of the beliefs that are held by religious people have direct effects on the world, and not for the better.

    unless your reasoning is your “faith”.

    No, not if you mean that I trust it blindly, and will swear by it in the face of contrary evidence.

  • 101 Bendul // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:07 am

    My biggest gripe with that definition is probably that I feel it shuts down the important conversations we should be having, that it incorrectly pigeon-holes those with religious faith, that it promotes a lack of understanding on the inter-personal level.

    I’m not sure this is one of those conversations we should be having. The passer-by’s comments seem aimed at condescending those who disagree with him, not at building any kind of interpersonal understanding. It seems like the decision to abstain from any kind of respect for difference has already been made. It is quite a painfully predictable discussion…

  • 102 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:20 am

    @Roy.

    First of all if you had physical “evidence” it is not faith in the first place

    Then why did you use a physical evidence argument in your very first post? By your very words, it is unnecessary.

    And who created the dictionary? Fallible human reasoning

    That isn’t my point. I am trying to point out that one of the fallibilities of human reasoning is the continued ability to deny contrary evidence for a psychologically favoured hypothesis on the basis of faith alone. This is, by definition, a delusion.

    No, it’s called faith, which you unfortunately in this context do not understand.

    The two terms are not exclusive. Very often faith and delusion are different ways of describing the same thing.

    That again is your opinion based on limited human intellect.

    Then why does your intellect require the argument from incredulity expressed in your first post?

    When I talked about most people believing in God, I was referring to the western Christian world, who statistically believe that, not the other religions which have thousands of God.

    On a purely pedantic point, Christianity is arguably tritheistic. If anything, Judaism and Islam are more monotheistic than Christianity.

    Now, that is a historic fact, but you’ll probably argue that one as well and I should not have opened that lid :)

    Heh. True!

    I got work to do, so bye for now…

    No worries. I should probably catch some sleep…after midnight here.

  • 103 Roy // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Hugo,

    What are some of the injustices that you refer to.

    Remember, a lot of people calling themselves Christians, are not. They have not experienced what Jesus said; “You must be born again” and are not, but often are, referred to as “Christians”. Even among other religions and particularly the Muslims who believe they are fighting against Christians when they are fighting against the USA or the western world. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    On the other hand, Christians are not perfect, they are just forgiven. Having said that, there is no excuse for anyone to behave contradictory to God’s word which is often referred to as the Judeo-Christian Principles that our countries were founded on.

    Unfortunately, we see that eroding more and more as God has slowly been removed from society both in school and government, where political correctness is being ridiculously promoted so we should not offend anyone else, to the detriment of the foundational building blocks of our society.

    Of all creation, man has always been faith related. There are proportionately very few atheists out there. In all of history man has had some relation to a belief in something outside themselves. There are tons of religions with just as many gods, from the primitive to the most elaborate. It seem to be a built in vacuum that needs to be filled and man has tried to fill that forever.

  • 104 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Last post for tonight! Hey Bendul, how’s things?

    Check in tomorrow…er, later today.

  • 105 Roy // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Hi Kenneth,

    When referring to limited human intellect, I was trying to point out that we are limited. If we don’t believe that, then we are really conceited.

    However, intellect has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with faith. The dumbest and lowest IQ in the world can approach God through faith and experience, what someone that were the smartest, most knowledgeable and with the highest IQ would never experience. God says that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who do not believe. And that is exactly why, what I am saying to you, sounds like foolishness. You did not say that in so many words, but that’s what it comes down to.

    Faith and reason will never meet on this side of the equation. However on the other side of it, you’ll understand. Besides God says in His word that no one can come to Him unless the Holy Spirit draws him. Then, at that time, we have the choice to respond or not.

  • 106 Roy // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Good night all.

  • 107 Hugo // Oct 26, 2010 at 4:19 am

    A very thought provoking article I just read:

    The Valley of Taboos
    V.S. Naipaul dares to discuss Africa’s indigenous beliefs.

    It talks about Africa’s indigenous beliefs, talking about the harm/damage they do. It also talks about the good they do, with regards to ecology for example. Additionally, it mentions western desert-originated belief systems and how they destroy the good parts of the indigenous beliefs.

    Connecting this with our discussion and with the “new atheists'” motivation, in an attempt to answer Roy:

    What are some of the injustices that you refer to.

    – Religion is considered religion, be it Christianity or Voodoo or Paganism. Lumped together, the harm committed in the name of superstitions is recognised, and fought against. Equality for religions, Christianity gets the same treatment as other religions.

    – Western Christianity’s Imperialism, in stomping local culture, causes harm in another way. Don’t think new atheists would argue this line from the article much though.

    – The article points out the strongest case for ecological protection is made through science. Ditto for health, scientific advances are our best way of ending lots of needless suffering. Consequently when Christianity manifests in a form that rejects science, it can be harmful to health and ecology and many more things.

    – Christianity* often encourages bigotry. Sometimes the kind that drives people to suicide. The fact that it is even necessary to make a video like this: It Gets Better – is shocking. The kind of bigotry that makes lives miserable, surely that’s worth fighting against? (Let everyone have life and life in abundance, not a marginalised, oppressed life. The atheist, the contemporary Samaritan, coming to the aid of those ignored by the religiously “pure”, the contemporary Pharisees and Sadducees.)

    Now you might argue that the worst manifestations of Christianity is not an example of “true/correct Christianity”. That’s not the point here – if you’re trying to understand the atheistic reaction. To the atheist, wars started and fought in the name of Christianity (wars this past decade) point to the possible harm that can flow from a Christian belief system, if the system didn’t exist that motivation wouldn’t have been there, irrespective of whether there is actually a small subset of Christians that do manage to live out compassion and love-your-neighbour.

    Does this help at all in answering your question? (Does it help for understanding other perspectives?) The first step in making a difference in others’ lives is surely to gain some understanding of them? Incidentally that’s another bad thing in some manifestations of Christianity: how people use their Christianity as an excuse to avoid caring to understand other people’s views. That doesn’t enable love for one’s neighbour, doesn’t aid compassion, is very un-Christlike. You know what I mean?

  • 108 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 26, 2010 at 8:47 am

    @Roy, I know you were talking to Hugo, but I wish to comment on this:

    Remember, a lot of people calling themselves Christians, are not.

    Have you heard of the No True Scotsman fallacy?

    There are proportionately very few atheists out there.

    If you mean atheism in the sense of a lack of belief in all deities, then yes. Although there is a school of thought that says that you, as a Christian, are as atheist toward Vishnu or Thor or Quetzalcoatl as I am. In which case, the vast majority of humankind is atheist towards the vast majority of gods ever created.

    In all of history man has had some relation to a belief in something outside themselves.

    Man has also believed that his little patch of the earth is the centre of the universe, that everyone outside his little group is the enemy, and that women are inferior to men. None of these beliefs are true.

    A tendency toward belief in humankind does not make the belief true. It makes us limited, gullible, and at the worst biased.

    Post 105:

    When referring to limited human intellect, I was trying to point out that we are limited. If we don’t believe that, then we are really conceited.

    But that is my entire point. How can you say, with a limited intellect, that your belief is true? If you believed you were Napoleon and needed to wear a tin foil hat to keep out the UFO’s control rays? How would you respond if, for example, I told you I honestly believe something like this?

    However, intellect has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with faith.

    Well, as I say, I don’t think this is true. You can use intellect to justify and rationalise faith. And you can use faith to subvert or strengthen the intellectual process.

    And that is exactly why, what I am saying to you, sounds like foolishness.

    Again, tin foil hat. Have you considered that it might just be plain foolish?

  • 109 Roy // Oct 26, 2010 at 10:46 am

    @Roy, I know you were talking to Hugo, but I wish to comment on this:

    Remember, a lot of people calling themselves Christians, are not.

    Have you heard of the No True Scotsman fallacy? No.

    There are proportionately very few atheists out there.

    If you mean atheism in the sense of a lack of belief in all deities, then yes. Although there is a school of thought that says that you, as a Christian, are as atheist toward Vishnu or Thor or Quetzalcoatl as I am. In which case, the vast majority of humankind is atheist towards the vast majority of gods ever created.

    How would you define yourself as an atheist?

    In all of history man has had some relation to a belief in something outside themselves.

    Man has also believed that his little patch of the earth is the centre of the universe, that everyone outside his little group is the enemy, and that women are inferior to men. None of these beliefs are true.

    A tendency toward belief in humankind does not make the belief true. It makes us limited, gullible, and at the worst biased.

    I did not say that their beliefs are true. But I did mean to say “a form of religious belief”, which has nothing to do with your reply.

    Post 105:

    When referring to limited human intellect, I was trying to point out that we are limited. If we don’t believe that, then we are really conceited.

    But that is my entire point. How can you say, with a limited intellect, that your belief is true? If you believed you were Napoleon and needed to wear a tin foil hat to keep out the UFO’s control rays? How would you respond if, for example, I told you I honestly believe something like this?

    To have faith in God, does not depend on your IQ.

    However, intellect has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with faith.

    Well, as I say, I don’t think this is true.

    That is your opinion, most likely because you do not have faith in God. But you do obviously have faith in the theory of evolution.

    You can use intellect to justify and rationalise faith. And you can use faith to subvert or strengthen the intellectual process.

    If you mean faith or doubt that you are on the right path in your thinking, that would be right

    If you could rationalize faith so that it made sense, then it would not be faith. Besides no one can come to God unless the Holy Spirit draws him. You see, when God says that without faith it is impossible to please Him and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” — I’ve had that experience, and that is beyond argument, because now, to me, faith has become fact. You cannot argue that, because you are sitting on the outside and you cannot see in.

    And that is exactly why, what I am saying to you, sounds like foolishness.

    Again, tin foil hat. Have you considered that it might just be plain foolish?

    Absolutely – It IS foolishness! God says so and every unbeliever agree with Him on that point. No question about it – It’s Foolishness. Case closed!

    God says more accurately; “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

    [I trust you can decipher between mine and yours writing. I was not sure how to make it different like you do.]

  • 110 Roy // Oct 26, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Hugo,
    My last post before retiring it’s nearly 2am.

    I understand that the atheist throws everything in the same superstitious “bag”, because anything that cannot be explained is superstition. However, you are mixing up a lot of things here that are unrelated in reality. To say that everything that is connected with the word “Christianity” is to mean Christian, is far from the truth and uninformed at best, of what a real follower of Jesus Christ is. That is the typical Muslim thinking that we hear all the time, when they believe they are fighting against the “oppression” of a “christian” America.

    Because you are mixing it in the same “bag”, you make the assumption that Christians cause harm because they are superstitious.

    Then you mention Western Christianity’s Imperialism and it’s peril for society. Here is the latest on that:
    Imperialism, as defined by The Dictionary of Human Geography, is “the creation and maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination.” The Imperialism of the last 500 years is described in the above work as a primarily western undertaking that employs “expansionist – mercantilist and latterly communist – systems.

    Unless, again you put everybody in one bag, I do not know of any “true” Christian churches or organizations that fall into that category, not now, not ever. Remember I said true Christians. Followers of Christ do not start wars, nor partake in the above definitions. Now, to define what a true Christian is so we don’t have a misunderstanding of that (about abiding in Christ) is; “He that saith, I know him (Jesus), and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked”. Even so, an atheist most likely does not care about that, but they must understand when you start talking about blaming certain “destructive” behaviours on Christians, you must first understand what a true believer in Christ is and that you cannot just arbitrarily put everybody in the same bag. Doing that and saying that’s just the way they see it, sounds not even intelligent.

    I am not a specialist on either the evolution theory or the creation science but here are some that does not reject science, as a matter of fact they embrace it and here are a few links that prove that ;
    http://www.icr.org/ and here from a former evolution scientist:
    http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/

    God made us free to chose and nobody has a right to tell anyone else how to live or what to believe, not even God does that. It makes a difference when such persons willfully impose their lifestyle on other people. Bigotry in it’s purest form should not be present anywhere, however some people tend to use the word “bigotry” without really understanding it’s meaning, and include people with unwavering, unbending, uncompromising, unflinching or unyielding faith, who can still be tolerant of other people’s belief and opinion but are confident in their own faith.

    The atheistic reaction, as you say, does not make a distinction between true, born again Christian believers, and “Christianity”, and since I am a representative of the former, the brush that he is using to paint “everybody” with, seems to be his argument that Christianity together with all the other “superstitious” religions, have a lot of flaws. Wars started by True believer of Christ? What wars in the last decade or at any time? Now, of course you are going to tell me that the atheist does not make a distinction, so that probably includes the “christian country” of the USA?

    Yes, it does help to clarify the atheist position in throwing all into one mixing bowl and I hope they will also understand that what they base their argument on is flawed when doing that in speaking about damage etc. I understand where they are coming from, but do they understand? It’s always a two way street of trying to understand, isn’t it? Having said that, I have to reiterate, true followers of Jesus Christ are not perfect, we are a work in progress.

  • 111 Bendul // Oct 26, 2010 at 11:41 am

    @Kenneth

    Long time! Cape Town is treating me well – very little time for jerking off the old intellect on blogs ;)

    @ Roy

    To say that everything that is connected with the word “Christianity” is to mean Christian, is far from the truth and uninformed at best, of what a real follower of Jesus Christ is.

    I think what someone like Kenneth is interested in, beyond your agressive rhetoric, is why (when you are in a statement like that associating yourself with a certain interpretative community that assumes to know the REAL meaning of Christianity) you are so incredibly sure that you are right? Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of epistemological* humility humility in the Judeo-Christian tradition?

    *Sorry for the wanky term, but i can’t find anything else that says it better – that which has to do with our accumulation of knowledge, which we should define for the sake of this argument as HUMAN knowledge, spiritual, inttelectual, emotional, whatever…

  • 112 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Roy

    Just above the comment box is an XHTML message with some tags you can use to keep quotes straight.

    How would you define yourself as an atheist?

    According to the fairly standard definition, I believe. See the beginning of post 93. There is no evidence for a god, so the chance of one existing is unlikely enough to provisionally ignore.

    But I did mean to say “a form of religious belief”, which has nothing to do with your reply.

    Not necessarily. What argument can you use to justify separating off “religious belief” from other beliefs in that way?

    To have faith in God, does not depend on your IQ.

    Agreed, but that doesn’t answer my question. I’m not talking about the intelligence of a person, I’m talking about the battiness of the ideas they might hold.

    That is your opinion, most likely because you do not have faith in God.

    I try not to have faith in things for which there is no evidence.

    But you do obviously have faith in the theory of evolution.

    Wait, what?

    There is only one way I can be said to have faith in the theory of evolution. That is where the word “faith” is defined as “confidence in the explanatory and predictive power” of the theory. I do not believe it blindly, without criticism, against the evidence. I can’t use the word “faith” with any other meaning in that sentence without equivocating.

    If you mean faith or doubt that you are on the right path in your thinking, that would be right

    But to let one affect the other would in many ways be intellectually dishonest. You are not considering the intellectual rigour of an idea if you are letting your unevidenced beliefs influence the outcome.

    You cannot argue that, because you are sitting on the outside and you cannot see in.

    Heh. I can argue that. It is your choice not to accept my arguments, though.

    Absolutely – It IS foolishness! God says so and every unbeliever agree with Him on that point. No question about it – It’s Foolishness. Case closed!

    I truly am not against believing foolish ideas. I am all for that, as long as the ideas have evidence to support them.

  • 113 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Sorry Roy, one last thing. The Institute for Creation Research is a scientific laughing stock, I’m afraid. Their ideas are not taken seriously in the scientific literature. See the talk.origins website for comprehensive rebuttals.

  • 114 Roy // Oct 27, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Kenneth,

    You “think” you can argue that, but unfortunately that’s where your reasoning ends, because no one can see the Kingdom of God, unless he is born again. Furthermore the Kingdom of God is within you, not by observation. And according to your own statements, unless you can see, perceive, understand or have evidence to support something, well, it’s not there.

    Of course you can believe in foolish ideas, however to embrace it would be really foolish, wouldn’t it?. Who wants to be a fool?

    To believe in God is not an idea, it’s reality to those who really do and follow up with their lifestyle.

    I guess we are laughing on both sides of the science issue.

  • 115 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Hi Roy.

    You “think” you can argue that, but unfortunately that’s where your reasoning ends, because no one can see the Kingdom of God, unless he is born again.

    Ummm…no. I can and have argued that. Your refusal to countenance the idea does not invalidate it. Tell me where you disagree with my logic, or my starting premises.

    And according to your own statements, unless you can see, perceive, understand or have evidence to support something, well, it’s not there.

    Of course. Do you believe in the fairies at the bottom of your garden, the invisible dragon in your garage, the teapot orbiting Mars?

    What makes the belief about (a) god(s) any different from belief in any of those things?

    Of course you can believe in foolish ideas, however to embrace it would be really foolish, wouldn’t it?. Who wants to be a fool?

    If an unevidenced idea is foolish, then why support it?

    To believe in God is not an idea, it’s reality to those who really do and follow up with their lifestyle.

    You see, the effects such belief have on lifestyles is one of the reasons why I am arguing with you. To wit:

    I guess we are laughing on both sides of the science issue.

    Could you elaborate on this?

  • 116 Roy // Oct 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Bendul,

    You said….
    I think what someone like Kenneth is interested in, beyond your agressive rhetoric, is why (when you are in a statement like that associating yourself with a certain interpretative community that assumes to know the REAL meaning of Christianity) you are so incredibly sure that you are right? Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of epistemological* humility humility in the Judeo-Christian tradition?

    I think possibly I have not made myself clear on that issue, so let me try to make it very simple. I have referred to it earlier, but maybe you missed it. It is not my or an interpretive community’s idea, nor is it I that “assume” to know the real meaning of Christianity, but only what God says in his Word. Nothing has to be assumed. It is not up to human interpretation to fit their own ideas. Gods Word is clear and it tells you what a real Christian is. If you want to find out just read it for yourself. It’s not hidden. As provided earlier here is the acid test of a Christian:

    “He that says, I know him (Jesus), and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”

    That’s God’s definition of a Christian. Of course you have to read the Book to find out the essence of that.

    On the other hand, people that assume they know because of influences in it’s many forms, are prejudiced because of lack of correct knowledge and understanding.

    Why I am so incredibly sure that I am right is very simple – it’s because I do not speak my own words, but refer to what God says and I have the experience that you don’t have. That of course does not make sense to you anyway, so it’s like the dog chasing it’s tail – the subject is never ending because I am speaking about things you will never see nor understand unless you are born again by the Spirit of God.

    To answer your question – Yes, God talks about humility this way; “He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. Humility is not weakness or wavering, but a truthful realization of who you are – honesty with oneself both before God and man. I am truly a sinner saved by Grace. It is God’s unmerited favor, and therefore as Christians….”Having therefore…..”boldness” to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…”. God does not apologize nor do I. That is not pride or lack of humility, it’s knowing who you are – in Christ.

    Have a good night…. or maybe morning?

  • 117 Hugo // Oct 27, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Roy, you’re making huge assumptions. You don’t know me, you especially don’t know Bendul. Your assumptions come across as extremelly arrogant. In terms of the way I know Jesus, extremely un-Christlike. In the context of how you assert one recognises Christians, I’d have to conclude you’re not a Christian and Bendul is more a Christian than you. :)

    I’ll try to share more of my context about 14 hours from now. That might prove helpful.

  • 118 Roy // Oct 27, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Kenneth,

    I understand it’s hard for you to admit that you cannot argue what’s inside the Kingdom of God, but the fact remains (which you do not believe) that unless you are on the inside, you don’t know anything about it, so to discuss it with someone who does not believe would be pointless. One thing makes me curious though – how you can say “I can and have argued that”, since you don’t believe in the Kingdom of God in the first place and can/will only argue as to it’s non existence?? How can you discuss what’s inside of something you don’t believe in? How can you discuss what’s inside a box if you don’t believe the box exist?

    You see, the effects such belief have on lifestyles is one of the reasons why I am arguing with you.

    You have problems with the lifestyle of some people calling themselves Christians? So do I.

    If an unevidenced idea is foolish, then why support it?

    No I was talking about when you said you would support a foolish “evidenced” idea: “I truly am not against believing foolish ideas. I am all for that, as long as the ideas have evidence to support them.”

    Do you mean the idea was first foolish and then it was evidenced and it was not foolish anymore? I would think that an evidenced foolish idea is still foolish. And you would support it? Hmm. Maybe I am not clear on what you mean by support?

    It’s not much to elaborate on the laughing, or I won’t because I’ll never get any work done. I have attended enough dialogues between evolutionists and creationists to affirm that. That’s all. Getting into that debate is interesting but way too time consuming for me.

    You see, God’s Word stands on it’s own and does not need any human discoveries to substantiate it. God does not need man’s support or approval.

    And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
    You’ll probably ask; “What is truth?” How do you think that you have the only claim to the truth? Well, if you seek for the truth with an open mind and a true desire to find it, you will surely find it.

    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.

  • 119 Bendul // Oct 27, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Roy.

    A million responses are flashing through my mind now, but I too have work to do. I must say though that I am truly saddened by your attitude as a Christian. I don’t want to say anything to try and break you down, because I’m not angry at you (even though mildly annoyed), but I have to say that if this kind of disrespect for people who refuse to subscribe to YOUR idea of what Christianity is, and is supposed to be, is the “Fruit of the spirit” – then I don’t want anything to do with it. And please don’t through decontextualised bible scriptures at me. I know you think I’m going to hell, but frankly, I’m not really that bothered with what you think. And I wish I could say this to you in person, so that maybe I could convey a tone that is not dismissive, but frustrated to the point of defeat.

    Peace be with you.

  • 120 Roy // Oct 27, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Hugo,

    Now, you are unfortunately starting to throw stones, which I have never done. I have referred to what God says, not my opinion. If that is offending, so be it, but I have just tried to clear up what seems to be this unyielding stigma of what a Christian is in the atheist and other people’s minds.

    You are right, I don’t know you or Bendul and only respond to what you are writing. I speak in general terms about people’s opinion, attitudes etc. making no assumptions or accusations against anybody in particular. But if the shoe fits….only you know.

    If you can’t handle that and want to bring this down on a personal level, we might as well be done with this now. Starting to scale or label people does not have any place in a discussion like this and I am afraid you have overstepped your boundaries, as you yourself say, I don’t know you. Well neither do you know me. You are now starting to call people more or less or not Christian, which surely must make the atheists laugh.

    In the context of how one recognize a Christian I gave you God’s word not my own opinion. You can argue that with Him. I never told you once how you can recognize a Christian apart from what God says. Talking about big assumptions??

    Maybe you should let Bendul respond on his own if he has a problem. If I have offended him in anyway or caused a misunderstanding, I would sure be quick to apologize. However, I thought that what dialogue was all about.
    I have been dialoguing with Kenneth back and forth with seemingly no problem.

  • 121 Bendul // Oct 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Oh – and the disrespect I am referring to extends to those who do not subscribe to your belief system at all – like Kenneth…

  • 122 Roy // Oct 27, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Bendul,

    I am sorry if I have offended you in any way, and I’ll try to clear a few things up. I don’t know if you are a Christian or an atheist from what you wrote. I just responded to what you were saying, not to you as a person. Let me comment on what you say. Don’t worry, I can handle your emotions, but I am trying to find out what caused it.

    A million responses are flashing through my mind now, but I too have work to do. I must say though that I am truly saddened by your attitude as a Christian.

    What specifically are you referring to?

    I don’t want to say anything to try and break you down, because I’m not angry at you (even though mildly annoyed), but I have to say that if this kind of disrespect for people who refuse to subscribe to YOUR idea of what Christianity is, and is supposed to be, is the “Fruit of the spirit” – then I don’t want anything to do with it.

    Please tell me where I showed disrespect or where I displayed my opinion of what a Christian is. I only pointed to what God said. If you feel that is disrespectful, then I cannot help it. It is not my opinion, but what God says that matter.

    And please don’t through decontextualised bible scriptures at me. I know you think I’m going to hell, but frankly, I’m not really that bothered with what you think. And I wish I could say this to you in person, so that maybe I could convey a tone that is not dismissive, but frustrated to the point of defeat.

    Without the scriptural basis, I have nothing to say.

    Hugo wrote me as you will see and said I mad huge assumptions when I wrote to you, which I did not. Now it seams you are of the same mind, assuming that I have judged you and thinking that you’re going to hell. Well in all this conversation hell has not been on my mind at all and to assume that I think that about you, I would say IS a huge assumption.

    As a Christian and born again believer in Jesus Christ I stand upon the Word of God and if that is a problem, then I guess we’re done. Opinions are just opinions and we can discuss that until we’re blue in the face and waste a lot of time.

    You are right, if we could speak face to face in person many things would probably not be misunderstood like this and would take a lot less time.

    It is not my intention nor my desire to “defeat” you, but to dialogue this as a Christian, which cannot be done without the word of God. My own opinion does not count in the least.

    Have a good day

  • 123 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Roy.

    One thing makes me curious though – how you can say “I can and have argued that”, since you don’t believe in the Kingdom of God in the first place and can/will only argue as to it’s non existence??

    You are claiming as fact a thing for which there is no evidence outside of your own experience. You admit that it is true with 100 % certainty. You are not even considering the possibility that you are wrong. You yourself admit that, is that right?

    This is your definition of faith. I am saying that there is no way for you to differentiate between a delusion about an invisible dragon in your garage* and your belief in the kingdom of god. They are both stunningly unlikely, based on the evidence. You can believe either, with absolute faith. But based on the evidence, you are misleading yourself.

    *hat tip: Carl Sagan.

    How can you discuss what’s inside of something you don’t believe in? How can you discuss what’s inside a box if you don’t believe the box exist?

    Really? I think you are reversing the burden of proof here. You are the one asserting the box exists. I don’t see the box, so I am only asking for evidence for your case. You are telling me to take the existence of the box on faith. I don’t see this as sufficient reason to believe you.

    You have problems with the lifestyle of some people calling themselves Christians? So do I.

    Please look up the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    Do you mean the idea was first foolish and then it was evidenced and it was not foolish anymore? I would think that an evidenced foolish idea is still foolish. And you would support it? Hmm. Maybe I am not clear on what you mean by support?

    When I say foolish, I mean non-obvious or counterintuitive. Even silly. As an example, let’s take the Big Bang you were referring to earlier. To a layperson it may sound foolish, but there is evidence to support it. So I have a measure of confidence in the truth of the theory. A theory/guess/idea that is silly (again, invisible dragon in garage etc), and that has no evidence to support it, is worth discarding in favour of an idea that fits better.

    It’s not much to elaborate on the laughing, or I won’t because I’ll never get any work done. I have attended enough dialogues between evolutionists and creationists to affirm that. That’s all. Getting into that debate is interesting but way too time consuming for me.

    Which is a pity. I assume you have some interest in the findings of science? I would have liked very much to show you how deeply wrong the creationist perspective is.

    And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

    Agreed. However, in order to know the truth, you must at least entertain the possibility that you might be wrong.

    You’ll probably ask; “What is truth?” How do you think that you have the only claim to the truth?

    Roy, I am not the one asserting, with 100 % certainty, what the truth is in this conversation.

  • 124 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Aaaargh. Italics tags are Teh Suxorz! I hope it’s clear what should be emphasized in my comments.

    [Ed: fixed]

  • 125 Hugo // Oct 27, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Roy,

    Apologies if I was offensive / throwing stones. What I wrote:

    Roy, you’re making huge assumptions. You don’t know me, you especially don’t know Bendul.

    I see my comment here was picked up and the issue resolved. Cool.

    Your assumptions come across as extremelly arrogant.

    Rephrase this as “subjective experience of arrogance from/by certain theologies”. You’re deferring to a theological stance, the deferment comes from your beliefs, the perceived arrogance from the theologies deferred to, that doesn’t mean you’re arrogant.

    This is what I think was perceived as the stone throwing (correct me if I’m wrong):

    In terms of the way I know Jesus, extremely un-Christlike.

    I have a certain perspective, a certain understanding of what I believe should be the fruits of being a follower of Jesus. My perspective differs from yours. So you consider my worldview un-Christian (I’m uncertain if from your perspective “un-Christian” is the same as “un-Christlike”), and mine considers your worldview (the theology you subscribe to) to be un-Christian. I should have stated this in a more polite fashion.

    My last sentence was meant in good humour, which the smiley was hoping to help convey, and derived from the above:

    In the context of how you assert one recognises Christians, I’d have to conclude you’re not a Christian and Bendul is more a Christian than you. :)

    My argument here is again for “perspectives within Christianity differ”, and an included nuance of ironic self-referential conscious potential hypocrisy: something I really hate about certain strains of Christianity is assertions by certain Christians that certain other Christians aren’t Christians. In the latter group, I do mean people doing their utmost to live as good a Christian life as they can, the most compassionate and neighbour-loving kind of people you find. When the former degrade the latter because they’re baptising babies, or because they’re baptising teenagers, or because they work on a Sabbath, or because they insist on not working on a Sabbath, or because they don’t assert the Nicene creed, or accept the scientific understanding of the universe, or if they don’t accept the scientific understanding of the universe, it drives me nuts. I’m emotionally affected by that. I probably attach way too much weight to one Christian telling another Christian “you aren’t Christian enough”, too much weight to the label. Which I have long since rejected anyway: I’m no longer a Christian. (“I follow Jesus but I’m not a Christian” seems very contradictory to some. ;) )

    So, I’m at a place where I do feel comfortable pointing out things that I consider un-Christlike. (This is indicative of my views of what it is to be Christlike. It is an opinion.) I refrain from calling someone not-a-Christian though (except for myself): being labels, I prefer to allow people to self-label or self-unlabel, or to be more utilitarian in the use when communicating an idea or stance to another.

    But I do still assert that Bendul is much more a Christian than I am. ;)

    Onto your comment:

    Now, you are unfortunately starting to throw stones, which I have never done. I have referred to what God says, not my opinion.

    A potential problem you’re facing is that in your comments we perceive what your opinion of God’s opinion is, we do not directly perceive God’s opinion in your comment.

    Starting to scale or label people does not have any place in a discussion like this

    I would agree with that, but in my perception you are also over-stepping this in the way you imply who should and shouldn’t be walking around with a “Christian” label. Nevermind, it’s not a particular issue for me, I just want to be permitted the space to disagree then I’m happy.

    and I am afraid you have overstepped your boundaries, as you yourself say, I don’t know you. Well neither do you know me. You are now starting to call people more or less or not Christian, which surely must make the atheists laugh.

    Indeed, it does make atheists laugh, and the smiley was there for that purpose. Bendul-more-Christian-than-you was, again, intended in jest. The function was also to alert you to the fact that you don’t know Bendul’s worldview. And lastly, I do still feel your comments have been doing just that, by implication. (Implying certain people are more Christian than others.) I recognise I was the only one to bring in names, but vagueness and abstract reasoning doesn’t necessarily make something less personal. Names could provide concrete examples to make the reasoning easier to grasp. Could maybe work with fictitious people instead though.

    I’ll drag myself into this later, which is what I promised above with “I’ll try to share more of my context about 14 hours from now. That might prove helpful”, but might postpone that until another day (seeing as I’m not working right now, though I should be).

    So that was my attempt to unpack the perceived stone-throwing in my comment. Let me know if I mistook it in some way, or confirm if I have it right? (“It” being what you perceived to be the stone.)

    I hope this served to clarify and soothe perceived offences.

    In the context of how one recognize a Christian I gave you God’s word not my own opinion. You can argue that with Him. I never told you once how you can recognize a Christian apart from what God says. Talking about big assumptions??

    I perceive you giving your opinion of what God says. And I consider a stance of absolute certainty on God’s opinion to be making big assumptions. With regards to Bendul’s mention of the decontextualisation of Bible passages, if I quote decontextualised Bible passages I can “make God say things” which I’m certain isn’t God’s opinion. Additionally you were quoting the First Epistle of John (chapter 2), traditionally attributed to John the Evangelist. How do you so directly and solidly conclude that by quoting 1 John, you’re quoting God’s opinion, rather than the opinion of one of God’s followers?

  • 126 Ben-Jammin' // Oct 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I have referred to what God says, not my opinion.

    No. You are the one typing what you think is correct. You are referring to your opinion. God, being a fictional character, has said nothing.

  • 127 Roy // Oct 28, 2010 at 3:37 am

    I’ll reply to the short one first….
    Ben-Jammin
    Yes, my stated (and typed) opinion, is according to (your fictional character) God. God may have said nothing to you, but He speaks plenty to me. Again, it all comes down to one simple word – Faith. You either have it or you don’t, and that’s OK.

  • 128 Roy // Oct 28, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Hugo,

    Stone throwing or labelling is when someone starts to make statements of comparisons with others in a derogatory way or scale someones character without knowing that person and even if they did, it’s not good practice. I never once pointed my finger at anybody for their lack of anything. However, when referring to what God said, I do not apologize for Him. However, those who do not respect where I stand, will dismiss me referring to God completely and state that it is my opinion, no matter what I say.

    When you say, “I have to conclude that you’re not a Christian etc.”, you are are not judging, you are condemning and that has not place in any decent conversation or argument. Becoming personal does not serve any purpose here. I’ve got pretty thick skin so I am not bothered personally with it. I know where I stand with confidence in Christ. I do call my self a Christian, but I usually qualify that in certain circumstances to avoid generalizations.

    You bet “perspectives within Christianity differ”, and that may be part of the reason why people on the outside are wondering. The world is supposed to “see how they love one another”. What you are referring to in perspectives are mostly what I call “table manners”, as long as you eat the right food, it does not matter how you get it inside. It will do it’s work. The problem I believe is that many Christians today has drifted away from the Word of God and become a complacent bunch of churchgoers that have a double life – One on Sunday listening to “make me feel good sermons” and another life the rest of the week. For me it’s no difference any day of the week. It’s one life lived for God – all the time. Don’t let the scientific aspect of things drive you “nuts”, it’s not good for your mental health :). As far as the scientific aspect of thing, it really intrigues me, and it’s incredibly interesting, but it has no effect on my faith one way or the other. I love to dig into it, but I find that, since this is not my speciality, although the information is readily available, I do not have the time to debate that at length.

    As a matter of fact, the followers of Jesus was not called Christians until later, in Antioch. If we should be very accurate we should be called “saints” (not in the catholic context), which was used by the apostles in their writings – “greet the saints at….. etc”. Follower of Jesus Christ is probably a better way of declaring who you really are.

    Everything has to be taken in context. For example, if you just read the lines where Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers and the merchants out of the Temple and over turned the tables, in some people’s opinion would not look very “humble” or “Christlike”. Jesus was not a soft, weak man in a white gown, although He is often portrayed that way. He was after all God in the flesh and did not take kindly to people that opposed the truth. He was invited to one of the Pharisees for dinner and literally ripped him apart for his hypocrisy. People with an attitude did not fare well in the presence of Jesus, but everyone that came to him for help he gave it, many times to demonstrate to the “religious establishment” how wrong they were. Since I am writing this to a follower of Christ, who will understand…..What would Jesus do? Well, this is what he did, and as followers we should do the same: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”

    I have no right to tell anyone they are not a Christian or not, only God knows the heart, but there is something still to be said for “you shall know them by their fruit”.

    I have no idea where Bendul stands, since he has not indicated that, but you obviously know him better.

    Should you not say; what “I” perceive (meaning you) instead of interpreting others response? At any rate you say : “….in your comments we perceive what your opinion of God’s opinion is, we do not directly perceive God’s opinion in your statement.”
    Well, first of all God’s word is not an “opinion” that God has. It’s His eternal word and He declares He does not change – ever. So, when I directly quote what God says, it’s what He is, not His opinion, and it certainly is not mine.

    You are saying, in your perception I am implying who can wear the “Christian” label. Well, I don’t, but clearly God does. Hey, you’re allowed to disagree, but don’t take it up with me. I did not say it, God did.

    I did not respond to Bendul’s worldview, which I am obviously not privy to, only what he wrote. Implication can and often is seen by the recipient, specially in a written dialogue. If in person it would have been cleared up immediately. Here it is slow, we have to scroll back a mile to see what was said etc. Anyway, judging someones heart or motive is wrong. What they say or do in public certainly will be critiqued.

    For someone who does not believe God exist, all what I have been saying here is of course fairy tales. But, that’s OK too. Doesn’t bother me in the least.

    Your last paragraph…..Again you are talking about my opinion. I never gave any! As I have said earlier (several times), I quoted what God said in His word, but if one (no implication!!) does not believe in the inerrency of Scripture, then that is pointless. That opens the door to man’s interpretation and God says clearly that it is not; “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”. And that:
    “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” And…..”So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

    I think that speaks for itself, however let me hasten to say this…a lot of scripture has been taken out of context to seemingly support all kinds of ideas. Typically and unfortunately many preachers will speak about their particular views on certain things and what they do is look for all the scriptures that seemingly fit the bill, many times totally out of context and with their own interpretation (see above). Personally, I believe the right way to expound on the Word of God is to help people with their problems by finding out what God says about it. After all He wrote the book on how to live. In my writings, I probably use more scriptures that my own words, because (again) otherwise it would just be my opinion and my opinion is worthless, but God’s word stands for ever.

    That should answer your last question. Those who believe that God’s word was written by men and their opinion rather than inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives way to everything for open for discussion and under the gavel of the human intellect, opinion, reasonings – the pot telling the potter what to do.

    It’s definitely time to Get Back to the Word of God.

  • 129 Hugo // Oct 28, 2010 at 9:02 am

    The arrogance and hypocrisy is making my head explode.

  • 130 Roy // Oct 28, 2010 at 9:22 am

    With that response, I think it’s time to end this debate, if you can call it that. As far as “exploding”, only you that can lite the fuse.

  • 131 Hugo // Oct 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    The exploding head comes from wanting to try to explain why I react the way I do, but concluding that it would be futile despite putting in lots of effort.

    (For cathartic reasons I’ll probably eventually write a response, but will put it off for at least three days. I don’t think actually having a conversation about it is worthwhile.)

    With regards to the conversation/debate, yes, I suspect ending it would be the wisest choice. If we were to continue (or if others want to continue), I’d suggest defining what it is that we’re actually trying to discuss or debate here. If the purpose of the discussion is the following:

    I have just tried to clear up what seems to be this unyielding stigma of what a Christian is in the atheist and other people’s minds.

    I think that you’re not successful in this. Unless you have a different stigma in mind than I do.

    (Thus far this conversation has, I think, been confirming Ben’Jammin’s experiences, which I had been attempting to disagree with. ;) I was about to ask if Ben’Jammin’s still watching, pop-corn in hand, but I now know he was following, and getting at least a little drawn in, evidenced by #126, possibly motivated by a superlative of SIWOTI? :-P )

  • 132 Bendul // Oct 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Roy.

    Firstly please don’t read the implication of this as an attack on you, or the iuntegrity of scripture. I ask that you humbly listen and consider how i feel about this matter.

    I love scripture. I have had many a friendly bout with people on this blog or even in person, over coffee, about the unique value that lies therein. I do not feel however the need to defend something that is “living” from anything or anyone. In fact i find it ironic that when do this they seem to be completely unaware of the fact that they are not allowing it to be what it is: the recollections of a helluva varied bunch of people with a real God. Scripture, as Jesus, is supposed to be as much human as it is divine – by the standards that the text itself imply. i.e. Contradictions and paradoxes are to be expected. It was written from a whole bunch of worldviews – there is no one worldview.

    Now (again not as an attack – i have a deep understanding & a lot more time than most on this blog – considering i was sold out to this kind of system for a long time) the approach to scripture that you seem to subscribe to (don’t want to make assumptions ;) is a response to modernistic individualistic pseudo-itellectual-autonomy (Ken is gonna wanna crucify me over this!). It is 300 years MAX old, and it bears no resemblance to how Jesus, the early church or the disciples approached scripture, because there was no such document in their age. I don’t think to admit the human fallibility in scripture excludes the possibility of it being divinely inspired & capable of conveying experienced truth much better than scientific factual documents (for instance) . BUT it does open up the possibility for taking specific scriptures; written to specific people at a specific time, out of context.

    For instance: I have a serious objection to the way you use Paul’s scripture on “foolishness”. I really believe that if this scripture is viewed within the prevalent roman paradigm’s context – i.e. POWER CONQUERS AND SHOULD BE REVERED – that Paul is saying SPECIFICALLY that the pacifistic way of Christ seems really stupid to the roman mind.

    The irony to me is that in fact the sola scriptura approach imposes a modernistic logic upon scripture – likie creationists , trying to justify a document that is 2000 years old by the standards of a systm that is 300 years old. Instead of admitting scriputre is a complex and big reality – best approached with humility & extreme care – I attempts to make sense of it WITHIN a contemporary worldview – and ends up losing much of its veracity by cramming it in there!

    Read the wiki article on fundamentalism – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism – not as some political labvel that attempts to dismiss your admirable concern for the integrity of the Word of a God you know and LOVE, but as the reportage of a system which ironically may be robbing you of a fuller understanding of who & what He is.

    Shalom.
    Ben

  • 133 Al // Nov 3, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Oh, Roy … you are such a fun little puppy,

    The fundamental difference between you and Kenneth is Ken actually has utilised science and studied in great depth where us monkeys and truly wonderful plants like good zol come from and more importantly HOW – whereas you claim to know where all the monkeys who disagree with you are going forever, carbon footprints, fantasy friends and mythological books notwithstanding.

    What a lag.

    You have no idea of what faith is except what you expect it to benefit you personally – My God you are so SAVED – and you cannot even define it in action coherently, but maybe that is all you will ever regurgitate as theology. Your problem R, but, Do yourself a huge favour, follow your own advice and Do crawl back into the primordial slime of the Faith Movement and buy yourself a bigger holy pat on the back until you ooze arrogance more sweetly, and copy a better tack – because, quite frankly, you stink at selling Jesus properly for fuck all.

    Al

    P.S. Yap! Yap! Yap-yap-yap!

  • 134 Al // Nov 3, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    There will always and forever be more life
    in sweet morsels of bread and fish
    happy in the mouth
    until baskets of leftovers
    of a multitude of forgotten infants

    than all the Imperators tax in a a single gold coin
    tossed back at the myriad graspings hands
    of a lesser multitude of deceitful, greedy

    Judas Priests

  • 135 Ben-Jammin' // Jun 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    A story made me think of this post again:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/06/10/indian-rationalist-faces-jail-for-exposing-miracle/

    Note that no one is disputing that the Sanal Edamaruku’s non-miraculous explanation is correct. (Or if there is anyone, I haven’t found any.) Yet he is being charge with a crime for providing it.

    It sure looks like active non-thinking to me.

    The video of his TV appearance is on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfJ6_ftih0s ) but I don’t understand the language.

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