Friday, November 9, 2007

Star Wars and the All-Faith SmackDown

d.j. wrote: "Jane, it seems you want a discussion where everyone shares their experiences and we all embrace those experiences as equally valid. This is not possible for someone like myself who believes in the absolute and exclusive truth of the gospel of Christ."

Share experiences? Yes. And beliefs. And ways of worship. And images of God. And thoughts about prayer. And more.

Embrace them as equally valid? Not at all.

I do not want to squelch conviction. I do not want any of you to feel inhibited in talking about your own beliefs. All I want to discourage is attacking other people's beliefs, especially when those people are saying that's not what they believe at all.

An exaggerated, imaginary example:

Person A writes "I think God is just like the Force in the Star Wars movies."

The sort of responses I'd prefer that we avoid:

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

"No, people like you really believe that God is Darth Vader and wants to blow up Earth with his Death Star, which would kill billions of people."

"Everyone who believes that faces eternal damnation."

"Point to a verse in the Bible that proves it. If it's not there, you have no right to believe it."

A better response:

"I don't think God is like the Force at all. I think he's more like Gandalf in 'Lord of the Rings' or Aslan in the Narnia books because ..."

Or:

"That's not in line with what I read in the Bible, which I take as the final authority. I see the Bible as saying this about God ... "

Best response of all:

"Really? What makes you think that?"

The difference is "I believe" as opposed to "You're wrong."

It's not necessary to assume that everything said is true. I'm not asking you, d.j., to believe any less that you know absolute truth. All I'm asking is that you let others say what they believe to be true. You don't have to agree, but you also don't have to tell them they're wrong point by point. Not everyone reads the Bible in the same way you do or takes it as the ultimate revelation of God.

I don't mean to pick on d.j., who has presented his thoughts respectfully. I'm responding directly to him because he made an assumption about what I wanted here. So to clarify:

I want this blog to be a forum where we can learn what matters to one another, not as a wrestling ring where we determine whose view of God whups the competition. Welcome to the All-Faith SmackDown!!!!! Does the world really need that? I sure don't.

By the way, thank you for the kind words about my husband, who died in April from cancer. I wrote a few columns about his illness and death for the Viewpoint page in the Observer, which is why I didn't go into more detail in my last post.

34 comments:

D.J. said...

Thanks for the clarification, Jane. We should avoid caricatures of others' beliefs and actually listen to what they have to say. However, at the end of the day, my convictions will often lead me to respond (kindly, I pray) by saying, "I believe that viewpoint is incorrect because of XYZ..." I've got no problems with tolerance, but I do have problems with a tolerance that demands the sacrifice of (often mutually exclusive) truth on the altar of false unity. Here's to further discussion that is both good-natured and not afraid to deal with truth.

By the way, if anyone keeps a running list of the top ten blog entry titles of all time, this deserves to be there. Incidentally, wouldn't "Star Wars and the All-Faith Smackdown be a great name for a rock band? :)

Soli Deo Gloria

rod said...

D.J.: It's a MUCH better name for a rock band than some of those names already in use!

Anonymous said...

DJ, while I come to this from different perspective I agree with you on "demanding the sacrifice".

Human race evolved from having many gods to more or less one. It is obvious to me in which direction we are heading. Same as you don't believe in vast majority of deities of our ancestors I don't either, I take this just one step further then believers. I just believe in one less god then you do.

For me truth is that there is no viable deity in existence but for you there is one and only one and specific one. Truth however is that more people disagree with us on all counts then that it agrees.

One of the fastest growing "religious" classifications is non-theist (atheists/agnostics/humanists...) and far outpaces growth of Christianity in US (by 20 fold). If you look at the adult well educated population one thing is certain, higher the education, lower the religion percentage is. Care to venture why?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Edie said...

Re: "If you look at the adult well educated population one thing is certain, higher the education, lower the religion percentage is. Care to venture why?" Iztok

- more education, knows more history of religion, therefore asks more questions, therefore less likely to believe in absolutes.

Or,

- more arrogant in one's own ability to deal with life without help from anyone/thing.

- more education means better quality of life/income (which doesn't necessarily mean no stress, but) which usually translates into less stress (as far as survival goes anyway), therefore less need for prayer/a God.

Anonymous said...

Talking about stars and wars and smackdowns, here is a chilling article:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/20071107_the_cancer_from_within/

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

But who decides what is a good education or not? By the standards we see in the world, our children are not getting a good education. Alan Bloom wrote about the closing of the American Mind and said that a college professor can be sure of one thing when he sees the students coming in. They all believe, or say they believe, that truth is relative.

How well educated can we be if we don't even believe that truth is absolute? Our ancestors read and studied much more than we do today. Go back and read the ancient philosophers. Go read the Medieval Christians. Go read the early Americans. They all assumed a high education on their listeners. In the Federalist Papers, you'll find references to Solon and other ancient thinkers and to Spartan society and various Greek and Roman wars. No explanation given on what happened there because it was assumed the people knew.

Go up to a student today and ask him what the Republic is about. Go up and ask what happened in the Punic Wars. See what happens.

To the point of the article though...

I prefer to speak of dialogues. I've done debates and they're interesting to do, but the main thing to do is to be in a dialogue of truth. I've been in a debate on a forum with my opponent behind the scenes trying to psyche me out with intimidating private messages. What'd I do? I passed it on to the people in charge, but I didn't mention it in the debate. I instead stayed my course. I also at the end offer a salvation message whenever I do my debate. If someone is convinced by my arguments and wants to know more about Jesus, I'd be glad to tell them.

I do agree with D.J. though. I will not sacrifice truth at the altar of unity. I see no benefit in being united in error. Can I be friends with a non-Christian? Absolutely! No problem. Can I think their worldview is true though? Not at all.

Should that stop me from being their friend? No way. There are a number that I always enjoy seeing and while we have a heated discussion when we see each other, in the end, we always part as friends. That's the way it should be.

Edie said...

"How well educated can we be if we don't even believe that truth is absolute?"

I had to read this a couple of times because the perspective is so different from what I've learned so far in my life.

For me, I found out that the more I learned, the more I understood how really ignorant I was and how I would never know everything.

I do not believe truth is absolute. To borrow a quote, 'Is your truth the same as mine?'

It's like history - what it means (the truth to some), depends on where you're standing. No two people are going to see an event the same way; we have to realize that each parties' perspective is their truth. Is one more valid than the other? Perhaps they're all true? For one party to say their version is the absolute truth and the others' are mistaken may work with personal faith, but the drawback is when people apply their absolute truth or faith to politics - then it's just plain dangerous.

Nick said...

Hi Edie. Let's dialogue about this.

Edie: For me, I found out that the more I learned, the more I understood how really ignorant I was and how I would never know everything.

Me: And belief in absolute truth doesn't change it. Absolute truth simply means this. That a proposition X such as "The Earth is round" is true for all people in all times and all places." Now of course, we might need some basic clarification. (For instance, this wasn't true during the Big Bang. It's generally assumed when we say that that we mean it at its present state and for the present time unless we change the sentence.)

Does that mean that because I believe absolute truth exists that I can't be ignorant? Not at all. In fact, I can only be ignorant if absolute truth exists. As you said, you learned there are things you do not know. Well do you not know absolute truths or relevant truths? If nothing is absolutely true, then what is it that you do not know?

Edie: I do not believe truth is absolute. To borrow a quote, 'Is your truth the same as mine?'

Me: But this presupposes relativistic truth while at the same time making an absolute claim. When someone says "True for you but not for me" I can simply ask "Is it true for you but not for me that something can be true for you but not for me?"

Now is my perception of truth the same as yours? Probably not in many ways. However, the perception does not matter so much as what reality is. If my perception is that I have $10,000 sitting in my checking account (Which I have nowhere near that much), then I am going to run into financial difficulties if I act like that's true.

However, perception does not equal reality. If you perceive that grass is green and someone else perceives that it is orange, well either one of you is right or both of you are wrong. It cannot be that both of you are right.

Edie: It's like history - what it means (the truth to some), depends on where you're standing. No two people are going to see an event the same way; we have to realize that each parties' perspective is their truth.

Myself: No we don't. We have to realize that each perspective is their perspective. If it's simply true for them, who cares about it? Why bother? However, there are standards in historical study that will indicate criteria that claims about truth must pass in order to be seen as valid.

For instance, did the Holocaust happen? We have some people who have come out recently who deny that it did. The huge majority would say though that it did happen. Both of them can't be right. Either it did or it didn't.

Edie: Is one more valid than the other?

Myself: Validity cannot be confused with truth though. Consider this syllogism.

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal.

This is the classic syllogism where if the premises are true, the conclusion is inescapable, and indeed, they are true. However, consider this.

All birds are reptiles.
An ostrich is a bird.
An ostrich is a reptile.

If the premises are true, the conclusion is inescapable. The argument is valid. However, the problem is that the premises are not true. We must keep that distinction in mind.

Edie: Perhaps they're all true? For one party to say their version is the absolute truth and the others' are mistaken may work with personal faith, but the drawback is when people apply their absolute truth

Myself: But this is to claim your version that relative truth is absolutely true is, in fact, absolutely true. If your statement is not the way the world is, then who cares? If it is, then you are just as much an absolutist.

However, you say that this is about personal faith. I believe that's a misnomer. Christianity is not just beliefs about God and Jesus, although it contains those. It makes the claim that these beliefs about God and Jesus are true for everyone. It is true for everyone that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. It is true that forgiveness of sins is found only in his name. It is true that he is the second person of the deity. It is true that no man comes to the Father except through him.

However, it also deals with how I see everything else. Do I drive the speed limit today? My Christianity effects that. How will I treat my roommate? What attitude should I have at the workplace? How do I handle going out on a date? What is the nature of man? Is morality objective or subjective? What is the purpose of science in life?

My view of Christianity will effect how I answer these questions. I do not believe in Gould's NOMA. My faith effects ALL of my life.

Chris said...

It's not true for everyone that Jesus died and rose again on the third day and went to heaven.

While I believe that Jesus did exist (there is evidence that supports he did and was a preacher and had followers). I don't believe that he was resurrected on that he ascended to heaven. Instead, I posit that he was a preacher like many others. I'd put him in the same category as Joseph Smith, Muhammed, or even David Koresh.

I think he (Jesus)had good intentions. But to state that it's a truth for everyone is not a fair claim. There is no evidence of his ascendancy or heaven. There is evidence of the holocaust including living eye witnes acounts, photographic evidence, film. You can actually go to Auschwitz. I hope you weren't really trying to make a comparison there.


I think Edie's point was that in American society (at least, that I know of) the higher level of education obtained, the less one believes in religion. For me, I prefer the flexibility that science offers. I like facts and evidence. I like testing. I like process. I can't buy into this concept that there's an invisible sky wizard and a zombie that will punish us if we don't obey the rules. It just doesn't make any sense on any level for me. I get WHY some people feel that they need that in their lives. I understand that on some level there is a human need to have comfort of the unknown and that religion offers that. I think as a society, from a rules standpoint, we can do everything religion does. Evolution has built in the fact that as we organize and protect each other, we function better and therefore we become more likely to survive. I just work off one simple rule: 'treat others like you want to be treated.' That's it. Not much else is needed.

Nick said...

Chris: It's not true for everyone that Jesus died and rose again on the third day and went to heaven.

Me: You're confusing objective truth with subjective interpretation. It would be like saying "Well, for the Flat Earth Society, it's not true that the Earth is a sphere."

However, it is true that the Earth is a sphere and it's true for the Flat Earth Society even if they deny it. No matter how much they want to say the Earth is flat, it will not pass. It will be true regardless. That is the claim of absolute truth. It doesn't need your agreement or mine. It is true regardless who believes what.

Chris: While I believe that Jesus did exist (there is evidence that supports he did and was a preacher and had followers). I don't believe that he was resurrected on that he ascended to heaven. Instead, I posit that he was a preacher like many others. I'd put him in the same category as Joseph Smith, Muhammed, or even David Koresh.

Myself: And this would be something else to discuss. I would simply ask though, why would a teacher that taught the good things so many people want to embrace today be crucified? Why?

Chris: I think he (Jesus)had good intentions. But to state that it's a truth for everyone is not a fair claim. There is no evidence of his ascendancy or heaven. There is evidence of the holocaust including living eye witnes acounts, photographic evidence, film. You can actually go to Auschwitz. I hope you weren't really trying to make a comparison there.

Myself: I definitely was. You're confusing the notions of truth. If X is true, it is true for everyone. If the holocaust is a true event, which it is, it is true for everyone even though they don't believe it. However much they disbelieve it, that doesn't change the truth of it.

Now if you want to discuss the evidence of the historical Jesus, I'll be more than ready to do so.


Chris: I think Edie's point was that in American society (at least, that I know of) the higher level of education obtained, the less one believes in religion. For me, I prefer the flexibility that science offers. I like facts and evidence. I like testing. I like process.

Myself: But this is already begging the question in assuming that religion does not deal with the world out there but only the world within.

Chris:I can't buy into this concept that there's an invisible sky wizard and a zombie that will punish us if we don't obey the rules. It just doesn't make any sense on any level for me.

Me: Good. As an orthodox Christian, I don't believe that either.

Chris: I get WHY some people feel that they need that in their lives. I understand that on some level there is a human need to have comfort of the unknown and that religion offers that.

Me: Do you think if I chose a religion based on comfort, I'd actually choose Christianity?

Chris: I think as a society, from a rules standpoint, we can do everything religion does.

Me: Can you tell me the nature of God?

Chris: Evolution has built in the fact that as we organize and protect each other, we function better and therefore we become more likely to survive. I just work off one simple rule: 'treat others like you want to be treated.' That's it. Not much else is needed.

Me: But as soon as you say better, you imply a moral standard. You're not going to get it in science. Where does it come from? Why should I believe it?

Chris said...

I've attempted to answer some of your questions, Nick.

However, it is true that the Earth is a sphere and it's true for the Flat Earth Society even if they deny it. No matter how much they want to say the Earth is flat, it will not pass. It will be true regardless. That is the claim of absolute truth. It doesn't need your agreement or mine. It is true regardless who believes what.

Yeah, because there is undeniable proof including photographic evidence. Same can't be said for any religion.

And this would be something else to discuss. I would simply ask though, why would a teacher that taught the good things so many people want to embrace today be crucified? Why?

He was a threat to power. It went against what was being taught at the time. Happens all the time (even by alleged Christians and others).


But as soon as you say better, you imply a moral standard. You're not going to get it in science. Where does it come from? Why should I believe it?

We are better relative to other species. Some scientists think that we developed morals and values so that we would help each other because humans, as far as physical abilities go, aren't that great. We're not that strong, not able to withstand the elements, and so on. However, our ability to learn, to be curious, to care for each other has given us a competitive advantage like no other.

Do you have to believe that? No. Do you have to believe that society has some morals that must be obeyed. Yes. If you don't then you go to jail and are removed from society (technically, I suppose you don't have to believe it).

Can you tell me the nature of God?

Nope. I don't believe that such a thing exists. Even if I were to go back to my Catholic upbringing, I would have to say that I probably still don't have an answer for you. I don't know. I don't think anyone 'knows.' I believe that people may think that they know but there's really no way to prove much of anything.

Anonymous said...

Hm... I just came across this research:

http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/300.pdf

"20% of today’s 18-25 year-olds say they have no religious affiliation or are atheist
or agnostic. Only 11% of those over age 25 fall into this category. The gap between young and old
has increased substantially over time. In the late 1980s, 11% of young people were non-religious,
compared with 8% of those over age 25."

It seems that better access to information and higher education is doing its job.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Chris: Yeah, because there is undeniable proof including photographic evidence. Same can't be said for any religion.

That's the point. Something is true regardless of who believes it or not. Even if you can't prove it, it's true. I can't prove to you what I had for breakfast this morning. Does that mean there's no truth to it?

Now you have an odd criteria. There is no photographic evidence. Do we have photographic evidence that laws of logic exist or that numbers exist or that moral values exist? By your standards, all ancient history is impossible.



Chris: He was a threat to power. It went against what was being taught at the time. Happens all the time (even by alleged Christians and others).

Me: What was so threatening about a peasant rabbi teaching people that they ought to love one another and get along?



Chris: We are better relative to other species. Some scientists think that we developed morals and values so that we would help each other because humans, as far as physical abilities go, aren't that great. We're not that strong, not able to withstand the elements, and so on. However, our ability to learn, to be curious, to care for each other has given us a competitive advantage like no other.

Me: We are not capable of giving ourselves something like that though. Either our morality is real or it isn't. If you do not believe morality is objective, fine. If you think there is no moral standard outside myself that I am to be obedient to? Fine. I just ask you to live accordingly with the belief that there is no good or evil.

Also, evolution can't explain morality. An is does not imply an ought.

Chris: Do you have to believe that? No. Do you have to believe that society has some morals that must be obeyed. Yes. If you don't then you go to jail and are removed from society (technically, I suppose you don't have to believe it).

Me: Here's my question then. Is this something true or not? If there is no objective morality, then are we not living in denial if we act like there is?



Chris: Nope. I don't believe that such a thing exists. Even if I were to go back to my Catholic upbringing, I would have to say that I probably still don't have an answer for you. I don't know. I don't think anyone 'knows.' I believe that people may think that they know but there's really no way to prove much of anything.

Me: Then science can't do everything religion can. Nor can it provide morality.

Anonymous said...

Nick, "Then science can't do everything religion can. Nor can it provide morality."

Science doesn't provide morality, it merely describes how it came to existence (evolution of morality).

I still think you don't really understand the definition of evolution and difference between it and the theory that describes (when it comes to natural selection).

Same goes for other things. Logic as you mentioned. Sometimes things simply are. Not always do we have a need for a creator. You come up with a premise that things need a creator while you know well that it isn't true, otherwise you would also need to explain who/what created the creator itself.

Science comes to explain things and build things from simplicity. Occam's razor comes to mind.

Since you brought logic to the table, let me ask you something then.

How can an all-knowing, benevolent, all-powerful God allow evil to exist, and especially allow evil to be done to his/her followers?

Can't he stop it? If he can't then he is not all powerful.

Is he allowing it because he wants to be free will? Then he must not be all knowing, otherwise he could figure out a way for us to have free will w/o being evil.

Perhaps he just doesn't give a s**t (which is more likely). Or simply doesn't exist, which would make the most sense.


Sincerely,
Iztok

Danbo020759 said...

I cannot imagine what life would be like if I had no belief in God, no belief in an afterlife, no belief in eternal life. How sad it must be to think that this is all there is.

chris said...

That's the point. Something is true regardless of who believes it or not. Even if you can't prove it, it's true. I can't prove to you what I had for breakfast this morning. Does that mean there's no truth to it?

Now you have an odd criteria. There is no photographic evidence. Do we have photographic evidence that laws of logic exist or that numbers exist or that moral values exist? By your standards, all ancient history is impossible.


Does history exist? Yes. There are records to prove it. We live it. Do numbers exist? Yes. It's on the page. The tests work out. Morals is the question. I guess you are saying, does something like love exist? Which would probably lead to a question of 'if love is not provable but exists (since we experience it) then does God exist since we experience him?' To which I would answer that I haven't experienced God. I'm just trying to save some time...I would posit that perhaps God is true for you because maybe you have had an experience which you believe is God (or I could argue was love or euphoria). Some scientist could show that it was a some sort of chemical reaction in the body (which love is). .

Which sort of brings it to the large issue. If someone or several someones has a 'God experience', and I believe that they think they have, how has this manifested itself into all the rules and everything else that we have today? I also believe that other religions have had similar experiences (indeed, I suppose you could find similar testimonials of such). If so, is it any less valid or true? Was it even real?

What was so threatening about a peasant rabbi teaching people that they ought to love one another and get along?

What was so threatening about saying the earth revolved around the Sun a few hundred years ago? Ask Galileo.

Then science can't do everything religion can. Nor can it provide morality.

I'm not sure religion can or should either. Not too long ago good Christian men in this country owned slaves and people were cool with that. A few thousand miles away religious men make their wives wear burqas and stone them to death. Over in Africa tribal leaders give young girls clitordectomy's. Over in Massachusetts (where I'm from) they paid millions to cover up priest abuse. Just the other day in Atlanta a preacher bought a Rolls Royce. I make a nice six figure salary in IT and yet there's a minister that lives across the street...

Please, please, please. There's a long list of things that we can find in organized religion that stray pretty far from a reasonable, societal defined moral standard. The fact that there are a lot of people that are organized and groups that are tax exempt and a President that is pushing their agenda bugs the heck out of me. Let's not look to them for moral guidance.

Nick said...

Iztok: Science doesn't provide morality, it merely describes how it came to existence (evolution of morality).

I still think you don't really understand the definition of evolution and difference between it and the theory that describes (when it comes to natural selection).

Me: Then do something else. Show me how I'm wrong. My belief is that an is does not provide an ought. Because an animal acts in such a way does not mean that I ought to act in such a way. Morality is not saying that this is what you do. It is saying that this is what you ought to do.

Iztok: Same goes for other things. Logic as you mentioned. Sometimes things simply are. Not always do we have a need for a creator. You come up with a premise that things need a creator while you know well that it isn't true, otherwise you would also need to explain who/what created the creator itself.

Myself: You think that when you write a number on a page that that means the number exists? I could just as well say I can write the word "God" on a page and that means he exists. The symbols you see on a screen either point to a reality beyond themselves or they don't.

History has records? Yep. Now tell me what you know about ancient history. Why should I accept the existence of Augustus Caesar for instance?

As for logic, I'd like to know what you mean by logic. I mean the three fundamental laws established by Aristotle. Do you affirm them or not?

As for the creator needing a cause, this is not what Christianity teaches. We teach that space and time both had a beginning which is perfectly in line with physics today. One outside of time cannot be bound by time to need a creator. It's also the way to avoid the fallacy of the infinite regress.

Iztok: Science comes to explain things and build things from simplicity. Occam's razor comes to mind.

Me: Science assumes some things also. It assumes the universe is rational and that the laws of nature apply and that our minds are capable of accurately grasping it. Can you scientifically prove any of these?

Iztok: Since you brought logic to the table, let me ask you something then.

How can an all-knowing, benevolent, all-powerful God allow evil to exist, and especially allow evil to be done to his/her followers?

Can't he stop it? If he can't then he is not all powerful.

Is he allowing it because he wants to be free will? Then he must not be all knowing, otherwise he could figure out a way for us to have free will w/o being evil.

Perhaps he just doesn't give a s**t (which is more likely). Or simply doesn't exist, which would make the most sense.


Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: I could answer this. However, this is my problem. You espouse moral relativism where good and evil are simply personal preferences and nothing is in itself good or evil, it's all in how we view it. Then you come along and say there's too much evil in the world.

Iztok. Which are you? Are you a moral relativist who will then drop the Problem of Evil as it contradicts that worldview, or are you a moral absolutist and then you will abandon your relativism and believe that some things really are good and evil despite what people think?

When you decide, I'll go down whichever road you choose.

Nick said...

A correction. I got my posts mixed up so some of what I said to Iztok applies to Chris, but I shall repeat it. My apologies.

Nick said...

Chris: Does history exist? Yes. There are records to prove it.

Me: BUt not photographic evidence. Now please demonstrate to me how you prove something from history.

Chris: Do numbers exist? Yes. It's on the page. The tests work out.

Me: Now if we live in a universe that is the result of an accident, why should numbers work out. However, do you think that when I write "1" that I am creating the number 1 or that 1 is a reality beyond the page itself? I could after all say "God" and then say "Look! It's on the page! God exists!" I doubt you'd accept that and I think it'd be a dumb argument as well.

Chris: Morals is the question. I guess you are saying, does something like love exist?

Me: That would be part of it, but no. I would say good and evil. Quite simple. If I had a live baby here and I took a knife and cut it to pieces simply for the pure joy it brought me, did I do something wrong, yes or no?

Chris: Which would probably lead to a question of 'if love is not provable but exists (since we experience it) then does God exist since we experience him?' To which I would answer that I haven't experienced God. I'm just trying to save some time...I would posit that perhaps God is true for you because maybe you have had an experience which you believe is God (or I could argue was love or euphoria). Some scientist could show that it was a some sort of chemical reaction in the body (which love is). .

Me: Then don't save time because I wasn't going down that route at all and I can't stand that route. I get tired in the church of hearing about people who claim they hear the voice of God or think God is leading them somewhere. I don't see that as a normative practice in Scripture. If God wanted to speak to me, he could of course, but I don't think I should expect it.

So no, I'm not going to go down the experience route. I'm not going to use feelings to argue this. Now could feelings come from a strong faith? Yes. However, they are a result and not the result. The true result of good Christianity is becoming more like Christ.

Chris: Which sort of brings it to the large issue. If someone or several someones has a 'God experience', and I believe that they think they have, how has this manifested itself into all the rules and everything else that we have today? I also believe that other religions have had similar experiences (indeed, I suppose you could find similar testimonials of such). If so, is it any less valid or true? Was it even real?

Me: Which is one reason I don't like that route. You can find experiences in any path. An experience is not self-interpreting. You have to look outside of the experience to find the context it should be placed in.



Chris: What was so threatening about saying the earth revolved around the Sun a few hundred years ago? Ask Galileo.

Myself: I'm afraid the situations are not similar. Galileo while right was also an egomaniac. Unfortunately, so was the Pope who opposed him and Galileo was messing in theology also, which people at that time wanted to leave to the ones degreed in that. Galileo's discoveries weren't the issue. It was politics. Galileo discovered new moons and the Jesuits readily acknowledged that.

They were more than ready to accept heliocentricism as a theory, but not as a fact just yet. There were still some questions, such as Aristotle's argument against it which wasn't answered until the 1800's. Galileo demanded instant acceptance though instead of gradual acceptance.

And also, he did not lead a bitter life after that. He died in his home where he lived the rest of his life and was paid a pension.



Chris: I'm not sure religion can or should either. Not too long ago good Christian men in this country owned slaves and people were cool with that.

Me: Until the Christian William Wilberforce came along...

Chris: A few thousand miles away religious men make their wives wear burqas and stone them to death.

Me: Which is Islam which I won't defend.

Chris: Over in Africa tribal leaders give young girls clitordectomy's.

Me: Same

Chris: Over in Massachusetts (where I'm from) they paid millions to cover up priest abuse. Just the other day in Atlanta a preacher bought a Rolls Royce. I make a nice six figure salary in IT and yet there's a minister that lives across the street...

And I condemn all of those also.

Chris: Please, please, please. There's a long list of things that we can find in organized religion that stray pretty far from a reasonable, societal defined moral standard.

Me: Let's just leave out all the good. Who stopped the death of children being left in the wild in the Roman Empire? Who spread literacy around the world? Who decided to put hospitals in every major community?

Chris: The fact that there are a lot of people that are organized and groups that are tax exempt and a President that is pushing their agenda bugs the heck out of me. Let's not look to them for moral guidance.

Me: And in all of this, there has been no explanation for the point. Can science provide morality?

Anonymous said...

May I weigh in?

Is the Earth flat or round? We know which is true because of observable measurements. With religion, observable measurements go out the window. Religion is, by definition, faith and not fact. If we could prove which religion is the “True Religion” we wouldn’t need faith, would we?

But we can’t, because the laws of our physical world (the Earth is round) do not apply to our spiritual world. As a matter of fact, Christianity relies solely on this position. One of the most basic (and provable) physical laws is that all living things die and stay dead. Christianity is based on God not being bound by this physical law – yes, Jesus died but he wasn’t bound by that “stay dead” part of the rule.

That being said, my biggest beef with organized religion is that religions almost universally tend to put human restrictions on spirituality. Despite examples in almost all religions that their deity isn’t constrained by physical laws – rising from the dead, the burning bush – each insists on limiting God to a single manifestation. If the read God was the God of Old Testament Jews, what is to prevent him/her/it from being, in another manifestation, the God of Jesus? Or the God of Mohammed? Or the God of the Australian Aborigines?

The two arguments I hear are (1) my God is real and yours isn’t and (2) because the Bible tells me so. Well, the first argument is a human restriction (only one of us can be right – and it’s me!!) and the second is circular (because the propaganda of my religion tells me so).

While I admire anyone’s faith and beliefs as something admirable, I am annoyed and concerned by an exclusionary religion where there doesn’t need to be right/wrong/exclusion. After all, it’s not like saying the Earth is flat.

Anonymous said...

"I cannot imagine what life would be like if I had no belief in God, no belief in an afterlife, no belief in eternal life. How sad it must be to think that this is all there is."

Just because you can't imagine it doesn't make it any more real that God exists.

Why would it be sad? See, the truth is that once you realize this life is all we get one tends to make the best out of it. You live your life to the fullest. You cherish every moment you have in this life. You are not looking forward to possibility of nuclear war (as some Christians here are because they think it will hasten second coming).

Honestly, live is great!

Anonymous said...

Nick,

while you didn't answer the logical argument that stems from evil and omniscience/omnipotence... of your God, here is something...

Yes morals are relative (time, space, culture etc. all influence it). I don't really quite understand why you have issues with relativism of the morals at all. Do you or don't you admit that moral rules change based on the time, space etc...? If you say morals are not relative, then you really can't explain why stoning is ok in some time/culture and not ok today. Obviously stoning children today is not moral action yet it seems it was perfectly ok in the Bible times. Slaves were ok, they are not ok now. So I don't rally get it why you would say that morals are absolute.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Nick,

while you didn't answer the logical argument that stems from evil and omniscience/omnipotence... of your God, here is something...

Yes morals are relative (time, space, culture etc. all influence it). I don't really quite understand why you have issues with relativism of the morals at all. Do you or don't you admit that moral rules change based on the time, space etc...? If you say morals are not relative, then you really can't explain why stoning is ok in some time/culture and not ok today. Obviously stoning children today is not moral action yet it seems it was perfectly ok in the Bible times. Slaves were ok, they are not ok now. So I don't rally get it why you would say that morals are absolute.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Is the Earth flat or round? We know which is true because of observable measurements. With religion, observable measurements go out the window. Religion is, by definition, faith and not fact. If we could prove which religion is the “True Religion” we wouldn’t need faith, would we?

Me: But this is simply accepting a definition about religion that begs the question. It's Gould's NOMA. When I make a religious claim, I am making a claim that some events can be checked. This was the biblical method even. The claim was that Jesus physically arose at a particular place at a particular time. This is why Paul said to "Test everything." (1 Thess. 5:21) The biblical idea has never been to deny questions.

It's also an inaccurate view of faith. Faith to the ancients was not seen as a blind leap. It was seen as trust in that which has been shown to be reliable. The apostolic message was not "Geez! We hope you'll like Christ and believe!" The claim was, "Christ rose. The empty tomb is there. We saw him. Repent now."

Now you say if it was fact, we could determine the right one. Are you sure? There are several debates in every branch of knowledge out there where we are unsure of the truth. Does that mean there is no truth?

Also, there are a number of reasons people might not become Christians. One is that they haven't really looked at the claims and tested them. Another could be sin in someone's life. I have seen people fall away and it has often been after committing a great sin.

You: But we can’t, because the laws of our physical world (the Earth is round) do not apply to our spiritual world. As a matter of fact, Christianity relies solely on this position. One of the most basic (and provable) physical laws is that all living things die and stay dead. Christianity is based on God not being bound by this physical law – yes, Jesus died but he wasn’t bound by that “stay dead” part of the rule.

Me: Please notice this. I can believe living things naturally stay dead and at the same time believe God raised Jesus from the dead. Now if you want to make death being irreversible the centerpiece of your worldview, be my guest.

Also, note that there are some constraints even for miracles. Miracles do not violate laws of logic. Our claim is that God raised Jesus from the dead. It is not that God raised Jesus from the dead and did not raise Jesus from the dead. It's either one of the two.

By the way, can you prove that nothing can happen apart from the laws of nature? If not, that is a "faith" position. (It's also self-refuting if you want to know how.)

You: That being said, my biggest beef with organized religion is that religions almost universally tend to put human restrictions on spirituality. Despite examples in almost all religions that their deity isn’t constrained by physical laws – rising from the dead, the burning bush – each insists on limiting God to a single manifestation. If the read God was the God of Old Testament Jews, what is to prevent him/her/it from being, in another manifestation, the God of Jesus? Or the God of Mohammed? Or the God of the Australian Aborigines?

Me: This isn't about what God could do. It's about what he did do. Notice this again as it is the laws of logic. In Christianity, we believe God exists in a Trinity. In Islam, if I say that, I have committed the worst sin of all, the sin of shirk. In Islam, God is an absolute monad.

Now, it could be Islam is right, though I doubt it highly. I strongly believe instead that the Trinity is the answer. I am certain of this though. Both of us can't be right. We could both be wrong but there's no way both of us could be right.

All religions make a truth claim and all truth is exclusive. We cannot look at what we would like God to do. We have to look and see what he did.

You: The two arguments I hear are (1) my God is real and yours isn’t and (2) because the Bible tells me so.

Me: The first one is a premise so it can't be a conclusion. If you can show your God is the real one, then all opposed are false.

The second is circular reasoning unless one shows the Bible is reliable first.

You: Well, the first argument is a human restriction (only one of us can be right – and it’s me!!) and the second is circular (because the propaganda of my religion tells me so).

Me: We agree on #2, but I wouldn't say logic is a human restriction. It is our master. We are not the masters of it. We obey laws of logic. They don't obey us.

You: While I admire anyone’s faith and beliefs as something admirable, I am annoyed and concerned by an exclusionary religion where there doesn’t need to be right/wrong/exclusion. After all, it’s not like saying the Earth is flat.

Me: Which is begging the question about what the nature of religion is. I am saying that God is a certain way and has revealed himself in a certain way. Either he did, or he didn't.

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick,

while you didn't answer the logical argument that stems from evil and omniscience/omnipotence... of your God, here is something...

Me: It's not because I couldn't. I did do a formal debate on TheologyWeb on the Problem of Evil. I hope you know that most atheists have admitted that this is no longer a problem for theism. Alvin Plantinga has strongly helped to deal the death knell to the Problem of Evil.

The reason I didn't is that you can't hold to both sides at once. You cannot say evil is a problem and that evil is an illusion at the same time.

Iztok:Yes morals are relative (time, space, culture etc. all influence it). I don't really quite understand why you have issues with relativism of the morals at all.

Me: Here's why. Because some things are clearly good and some are clearly evil. Cutting up an innocent baby for the pleasure it brings you is evil. Going into Virginia Tech and Columbine and shooting kids for your own personal retribution is evil. Loving your neighbor as yourself is good. Now if I am a relativist with morality, I have to say that all statements in regards to good and evil are nonsense claims. They cannot be true or false. They have as much sense as saying "Colorless green dreams sleep furiously."

Iztok: Do you or don't you admit that moral rules change based on the time, space etc...? If you say morals are not relative, then you really can't explain why stoning is ok in some time/culture and not ok today.

Me: Sure I can! Israel had a specific purpose and was a specific society. The biblical writers had no problem with the penalties for sin being different. What was the sin in the OT for a man sleeping with his stepmother? Death. What does Paul say to the NT church? Excommunication? Why? Christ fulfilled the Law. Israel was given a different approach to morality for a different reason, but the moral underpinning behind it is still the same. You are still to honor your Father and Mother.

Iztok: Obviously stoning children today is not moral action yet it seems it was perfectly ok in the Bible times. Slaves were ok, they are not ok now. So I don't rally get it why you would say that morals are absolute.

Sincerely,
Iztok

I think if we took some time to study "slavery" back then, you'd be surprised. Now if morality is relative, here's my advice. Live accordingly. Go out there and live like there's no morality. You can do whatever you want and it's neither good or evil. It just is. I'd like to see how long that lasts.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

you can't say morals are absolute and claim that rules are different for Israel at the same time.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick,

you can't say morals are absolute and claim that rules are different for Israel at the same time.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: Wow. So instead of answering my points, we instead go off somewhere else. Try to point to the contradiction in me instead of going at it in you. Let's notice some things.

First off, do I still condemn sons being drunk and profligates and rebellious to their parents. Yes.

Do I still think this is punishable? Yes.

In fact, so does society! Crimes taken to a high level like this can often result in such a son being locked away in prison. The moral standard hasn't changed. The punishment has. Why?

Here's why.

Israel was to be the nation that brought about atonement for the sins of the world. Why did Nineveh not have to offer sacrifices at the preaching of Jonah? Simple reason. That was Israel's job. Israel was to be the priest in ministry interceding for the nations.

What was the ultimate form of this to be? It would be to bring about the Messiah Christ Jesus who would provide atonement by his death for all people. Until then, Israel was to represent God to the world. You don't like Christians that are hypocrites and do evil since they're to represent God to the world supposedly? Then you should respect this.

Israel was also a community that was to be under a different law, the covenant of Sinai. That was specifically for Israel. The pagan nations were never under it. However, there were some standards in it that do apply to all nations. We consider these the moral law. What you are dealing with is the civic law which is not the same. The other was the ceremonial law.

Thus, Paul in Romans 2 says that the Gentiles know right from wrong because they have the law written on their hearts. Israel was to follow that law though as well as the civic and ceremonial in order to show the holiness of YHWH to the world.

Unfortunately, they didn't do a good job, hence the exile in Babylon.

So why take care of a son this way? Because the sons were the future leaders of the people. A son that was rebellious would be a cancer bringing down the rest of the society into degradation.

Are we under the same situation? No. That is civil law though. It is a way of handling the moral law just as our prison system is today.

By the way, if you think I am being hypocritical, which I am not, then let me point this out. You cannot condemn hypocrisy and be a moral relativist at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I am not the one that claims morals are absolute but at the same change change based on if one is "chosen people" or not. You really can't have your absolutes and relativise them either.

Your attempt of hypocrisy not being in line with relativism of our morals is really weird considering someone claims morals are absolute.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Actually, if you're a relativist, and you think I'm hypocritical, which I deny, on what grounds can you condemn hypocrisy? You can say "You ought not to be hypocritical?" Who says? Whoever you say I could just be a relativist and say "That's their morality. Not mine. I only have to abide by mine."

Now I've written out a detailed argument of what I believe. Care to show me where the fault is instead of just saying "It doesn't work?"

Anonymous said...

Hi. I have only skimmed the messages on this topic, so forgive me if I am repeating something. There seems to be a lot of talk here about moral absolutes, but I don't see where any of these absolutes are listed. Could someone give a few examples of moral absolutes please?
Also, just to add fuel to the fire, I must point out that just because someone claims to be the offspring of an invisible god-like creature does not make it so. There are a lot of mentally ill people out there who think they are all kinds of gods. Also, just believing in invisible creatures does not make them real. I believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, but that does not mean they are real.
Thanks,
Norm A. Desmond

Nick said...

Hi. I have only skimmed the messages on this topic, so forgive me if I am repeating something. There seems to be a lot of talk here about moral absolutes, but I don't see where any of these absolutes are listed. Could someone give a few examples of moral absolutes please?

Me: Sure.

Rape is evil. It is good to love your neighbor as yourself. You shouldn't torture innocent babies for fun. Etc.

Norm: Also, just to add fuel to the fire, I must point out that just because someone claims to be the offspring of an invisible god-like creature does not make it so. There are a lot of mentally ill people out there who think they are all kinds of gods. Also, just believing in invisible creatures does not make them real. I believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, but that does not mean they are real.
Thanks,
Norm A. Desmond

If they are not real, why believe in them?

Now you can say not believing in something doesn't make it real. I agree. Fortunately, it has never been my argument. My argument is that God is real and I have given throughout the Sacred Space blogs reasons why I hold to that opinion. You're free to deal with any of them.

Anonymous said...

Nick, "Rape is evil. It is good to love your neighbor as yourself. You shouldn't torture innocent babies for fun. Etc."

Hm... is rape always evil? Or is sometimes ok to offer your daughter to be raped instead of someone else?

Is it only evil when female is raped or is it ok to rape a drunk male (by a female)?

Is torturing/killing innocent babies ok if instructed by your God?

Is killing or attempting to kill your own child ok if one has to keep promise to God?

Sincerely,
Rev. Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick, "Rape is evil. It is good to love your neighbor as yourself. You shouldn't torture innocent babies for fun. Etc."

Hm... is rape always evil? Or is sometimes ok to offer your daughter to be raped instead of someone else?

Me: Nope. Not at all. Lot was doing something stupid.

Iztok: Is it only evil when female is raped or is it ok to rape a drunk male (by a female)?

Iztok: Is torturing/killing innocent babies ok if instructed by your God?

Me: If you want to get into the Canaanite attacks, just say so.

Iztok: Is killing or attempting to kill your own child ok if one has to keep promise to God?

Sincerely,
Rev. Iztok

Me: You are aware Abraham never offered up his son. Right?

Btw, if morality is not absolute, you do have nothing to complain about.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

so you never answered if raping a man (by getting him drunk and then sleeping with him) is ok or not?

As far as Lot is concerned. Bible says Lot was righteous. Do you disagree? If he was righteous how could he do something stupid by offering his daughters? BTW: It says they were virgins yet we know they were married?!? Confusion in the Bible again.

Yes Abraham never offered his son. But he almost killed him because God told him so. From where I stand this is child abuse. Also, if you remember a story where Jephthah made a promise to God and later killed his daughter? So what is the point of the story? God makes sure that first thing that came out of the house was a kid instead of some cat or a goat or something? So Jephthah had to kill his own child? Is this moral?

I am just pointing out that morals apparently are relative, otherwise you can't justify this, can you?

Sincerely,
Rev. Iztok