Thursday, May 15, 2008

This is your brain on God ...

Is research into how the brain works changing the debate over God? Will it affect the long-running tug-of-(holy)-war between materialism and a worldview that includes the sacred?

That's the subject of an intriguing piece this week from New York Times columnist David Brooks: The Neural Buddhists.

Brooks writes that the new wave of neurological research "will not seep into the public realm in the form of militant atheism. Instead it will lead to what you might call neural Buddhism." The research points to common moral instincts in all religions and a built-in ability for the mind "to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real."

"In unexpected ways," he writes, "science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day."

Is the debate shifting from (Round 1) belief in God vs. atheism to (Round 2) belief in transcendence vs. belief in God as revealed in a specific religion?

If the comments in this blog are any indicator, there's plenty of fighting left to do in both rounds.

Do you agree with Brooks' analysis? What do you think the changing debate will mean for the future of faith in America?

118 comments:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the 1960's revisited. I think all that has been done before. The so-called "New Age" is getting pretty old now and still hasn't matured much since the "Age of Aquarius".

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this book will probably get him a spot on the Oprah show, but the problem with most of these scientific breakthroughs in religion is that most people have little or no clue about the science behind them, so end up spouting exactly what these authors tell them.

Belief in psuedo-science is no better than belief in religion, so I don't see a big difference in the "atheism" debate as skeptics are already out there debunking pseudo-science as well.

What real science emerges from the hype will probably be pretty mundane stuff.

It's like when physicists talk about "God", they aren't talking about Jeezus' Daddy.

Nick said...

The idea of an endless war between science and religion is a myth. I don't have any concerns about this research. It's simply reductionism coming around again.

Danbo59 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo59 said...

After reading David Brooks' column all I can say is that we're making much ado about nothing.

Science trying to explain God? It was God who created what science studies! These new age theorists are working the problem from the wrong end.

We don't need to use science to explain or affirm or deny God's existence. Instead we need to acknowledge God's Creation to explain, affirm or question what science suggests (as opposed to what science has proven).

God is not an invention of the human mind -- the human mind is an invention of God!

Anonymous said...

Science tells us What and How.
Philosophy tells us Why.
Faith tells us Who.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous said, "Science tells us What and How. Philosophy tells us Why. Faith tells us Who."

Nicely put!

Anonymous said...

Do you believe in Peter Pan as well ?

It's a story in a book as well.... it must be true.

pornstudent said...

Neurological research explains mysticism and God. The merging with a larger presence feels real. It's in the brain. It's still materialism.

Anonymous said...

Hey Porn student,

Check out Sam Harris End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. You will enjoy the reads.

pornstudent said...

OK, Anonymous.

Gamecock said...

anon, if you made that up, I am in awe. Even if you didn't, bravo. well stated.

Anonymous said...

If this new science leads to new technologies that can simulate religious experiences, then we'll have something to talk about.

Something like a religious virtual reality where you can create a "god" and have others experience it will be a real revolution.

Until then, it's the same old, same old.

Nick said...

Pornstudent. You said mysticism and God are a result of material processes in the brain. At least, that's the way I understood it.

Does that include your idea that it's all a result of material processes?

pornstudent said...

I think so, Nick.

What we feel as the love of God is in our brains. What Moslems experience as the love of God is pretty much the same feeling Christians have. Jesus isn't necessary. Religion isn't necessary. Belief in God isn't even necessary.

There are God love undertones; a Catholic's Love experience would be more reserved than an atheist's, a militant fundamentalist's violent, a mystic's slow and easy. Most religious differences have nothing to do with the experience of God's love, but with other neurological processes.

Danbo59 said...

"What we feel as the love of God is in our brains. What Moslems experience as the love of God is pretty much the same feeling Christians have. Jesus isn't necessary. Religion isn't necessary. Belief in God isn't even necessary...Most religious differences have nothing to do with the experience of God's love, but with other neurological processes."

That's what a Liberal Arts degree will get you. What the heck did any of that mean -- anything???

pornstudent said...

You didn't quote the sentence about God love undertones. Did that mean anything to you?

Danbo59 said...

pornstudent asked, "You didn't quote the sentence about God love undertones. Did that mean anything to you?"

Frankly, there isn't much you write that means anything at all, much less to me. You're totally in vacuum on this one.

Nick said...

You have a problem then Porn. If your interpretation of the events and the idea that all thoughts are the result of materialistic processes is the result of a materialistic process, then you don't believe it because it's true. You simply believe it because you must. That is the way your brain is wired.

Now it could be true that all thoughts are the results of materialistic processes, but we'd have no way of knowing if materialistic processes are all we have.

LBE said...

Christians have always had to defend their doctrine. This is nothing new.

pornstudent said...

"How can an atheist experience God's love?"

I first experienced God's love when I was a Christian. The experience remains in my brain even after becoming an atheist. Now the Love isn't covered with a lot of other stuff; it's easier to get at and experience. You can quit making excuses for your religion and keep your experience of God's love.

God's love doesn't need to be first experienced through religion, though. Some first experience it while on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Long after ingesting the mushrooms, the experience of unconditional love remains. Some first experience it in nature.

Once the brain experiences something it is able to experience it again without any outside input. Remember that beach vacation, the warm sun, the salty air?

"But it's not real."

The experience is real even though God isn't. You can let yourself experience the love of God without actually believing in God. You may not want to, it's up to you.

pornstudent said...

There is a lot we don't know, Nick. I'm OK with that.

Brian said...

It seems there’s quite a lot of bible-based intolerance toward a diversity of folks in the Charlotte region. Now the right-wingnuts will try to get Californians to enshrine anti-gay hate in their constitution (which won’t work, by the way) because a modest victory for love and equality was won. In light of the self-righteous “morality” espoused by the “I’m gonna vote against the gays/blacks/women” crowd right
here in Charlotte, I thought some of you might find the following piece (from Funny Times) ... interesting.

-Brian

###

“Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said, “In the eyes of God, marriage is based between a man and a woman”. I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why *can’t* I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman when she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness
(Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9).
The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there “degrees” of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I do admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we get the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Sincerely,

Joe Public

Thanks to Ben Rosow, who found this letter mixed in with his mail, and forwarded it to the proper authorities.”

Nick said...

Brian: It seems there’s quite a lot of bible-based intolerance toward a diversity of folks in the Charlotte region.

Me: Define tolerance.

Brian: Now the right-wingnuts will try to get Californians to enshrine anti-gay hate in their constitution (which won’t work, by the way) because a modest victory for love and equality was won. In light of the self-righteous “morality” espoused by the “I’m gonna vote against the gays/blacks/women” crowd right
here in Charlotte, I thought some of you might find the following piece (from Funny Times) ... interesting.

-Brian

Me: Don't you love Poisoning The Wells? Let's just get in all of these emotionally-laden statements instead of realizing that Christians do oppose homosexual activity for a reason.

Brian: ###

“Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said, “In the eyes of God, marriage is based between a man and a woman”. I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them:

Me: First off, you're living with a misconception here as will be shown. The command against homosexuality was not considered the law of Israel alone but also the moral law that Paul would say is written on our hearts such as in Romans 2:15. This is what thinkers throughout history have called "Natural Law." You see it pointed to in writings like Antigone. Please note also that Plato himself condemned homosexuality in his dialogue, "Laws."

Brian: 1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why *can’t* I own Canadians?

Me: Please tell me what was understood by the term "slave" in the ANE context. I want to know where your study was done also.

Brian: 2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

Me: The same question applies. Again, slavery in the ancient world was different from the modern world.

Brian: 3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman when she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness
(Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Me: In that time period, a woman in a time of uncleanliness would isolate herself.

Brian: 4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9).
The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

Me: And this is just silly. The bull was sacrificed in a designated area and was expected of all people. This was also for a theocracy. Other nations were never ordered to sacrifice.

Brian: 5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

Me: Do you live in theocratic Israel? No. Then you are not under that law.

Brian: 6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there “degrees” of abomination?

Me: Yep. There are. There is ceremonial uncleanliness and moral uncleanliness. First off, note that a different word is used for abomination in each case. Only one word is used for the act of homosexuality and it's the same one every time and it's not used to describe other abominations in Israel.

Also notice at the end of Leviticus 18:24-28 ends with saying that these sexual practices were the ones the nations before them were being judged for meaning those nations should have known better. Their actions violated the natural law. Also note that when Israel did the same thing, they got the same punishment.

Yes. There is a distinction between moral law and ceremonial law in Leviticus.

Brian: 7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I do admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Me: Are you a Levite in the theocratic nation of Israel? Then no, you don't have a problem. If you are, then yes. You don't.

Brian:8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

Me: First off, death is not mentioned there as a penalty. Second, it was done to avoid the practices of the pagan nations in their rituals.

Brian: 9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

Me: Are you in theocratic Israel in the pre-Christian era?

Brian: 10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we get the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

Me: Are you a member of the theocratic Israelite community? Didn't think so.

Brian: I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Sincerely,

Joe Public

Me: Plato once said you don't go to the common people when you want understanding on medicine but you go to a doctor. If you want some answers on the Bible, go to people who are experts on the Bible. People who put together a list like this show they don't know what they're talking about and they simply hope to fool the ignorant.

Brian: Thanks to Ben Rosow, who found this letter mixed in with his mail, and forwarded it to the proper authorities.”

Me: Mr. Rosow needs to get an education in the Bible then.

pornstudent said...

Intolerant 2b: unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : bigoted.

Some think it's OK to not give gays and lesbians equal rights because of the Bible and what some philosophers think. It's not.

Some use the Bible as an excuse for their bigotry; but I think most Christians are conflicted by what they are told is immoral and what they feel would be loving and fair.

Nick said...

Porn. What equal rights are homosexuals being denied?

pornstudent said...

Gays and lesbians are being denied, or there is an effort to deny, their equal right to marry.

pornstudent said...

See Questions about Same-Sex Marriage.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to learn how slavery was so different in the ancient world than the modern world.

Were Old Testament slaves somehow better off than the slaves of ante-bellum Mississippi.

Were the slaves of Babylon so often mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi radically different from the slaves in Leviticus?

Let's get some clarification on this since some of the Christians out there seem to think Biblical slavery was something different than actual slavery.

You buy, own, and sell people to work for you. Isn't that basically what slavery was/is all about?

So, what exactly, was the big difference about the slaves mentioned in the Bible?

Anonymous said...

Well since not being a Levite in a theocracy means we can ignore Leviticus, may be not starting a church in Corinth means we can all ignore Corinthians.

Where's the guidebook to passages in the Bible that don't apply to those living in modern day U.S.A?

Do they have a "red letter" edition which highlights all the parts that no longer apply?

Anonymous said...

If ancient slavery was different from modern slavery maybe ancient homosexuality was different from modern homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

Apparently the Greeks considered homosexuality among grown men differently than men having sex with young boys (aka pederasty).

Maybe that kind of homosexuality didn't matter in Biblical times. It would explain a lot.

Danbo59 said...

Religion aside, Californians will vote to define marriage as one-man-one-woman, despite what those who practice deviant sexual acts -- and those who support them -- would have you believe.

A man can't claim discrimination because he can't carry a child in utero. Homosexuals can't claim discrimination for not being able to marry, because they don't fit the meaning of the word. Live with it, folks. Stick with "civil unions." It's the best you're going to get.

Iztok said...

"Again, slavery in the ancient world was different from the modern world."

How is that?

Slaves were bought and sold in ancient times as well as in modern.

Leviticus 25:44-46 amongst others is clear that slaves were bought and sold.

Slaves were beaten in ancient times as well as in modern.

Exodus 21:20-21 is obvious.

Ancient as well as modern times had sex slaves.

Exodus 21:7-11 (A man can buy as many sex slaves as he wants as long as he feeds them, clothes them, and screws them!)

Jesus was clear what he thought about slaves (Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Luke 12:47-48)

Iztok said...

"Homosexuals can't claim discrimination for not being able to marry, because they don't fit the meaning of the word. Live with it, folks. Stick with "civil unions." It's the best you're going to get."

I don't care about the word itself. As long as civil unions and marriages have the same rights. (Pension, insurance, adoption etc...)

BTW: Merriam-Webester's definition includes the following:

"the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage "

Nick said...

Porn. Gays and lesbians have the same rights as anyone else. They can marry anyone else of the opposite sex. They're wanting new rights.

Nick said...

Anonymous: I'd like to learn how slavery was so different in the ancient world than the modern world.

Me: Then I'd suggest you start learning by going and getting some books on ANE culture before you start pontificating where you're ignorant of the subject matter.

You: Were Old Testament slaves somehow better off than the slaves of ante-bellum Mississippi.

Me: Yep

You: Were the slaves of Babylon so often mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi radically different from the slaves in Leviticus?

Me: Yep

You: Let's get some clarification on this since some of the Christians out there seem to think Biblical slavery was something different than actual slavery.

Me: Which it was seeing as you just said you'd like to learn something about it. Are you going to go on and keep talking where you know nothing? Not a wise move.

You: You buy, own, and sell people to work for you. Isn't that basically what slavery was/is all about?

Me: Um. No. This is simply equivocation. Slavery in those days had a lot more in common with our work force than it did with slavery in the Civil War, at least in Israel.

You: So, what exactly, was the big difference about the slaves mentioned in the Bible?

Me: They had standards on how they were to be treated, they could easily claim their freedom, and they were to be regularly freed anyway.

Among others.



You: Well since not being a Levite in a theocracy means we can ignore Leviticus, may be not starting a church in Corinth means we can all ignore Corinthians.

Me: Um. No. It just means you don't know what you're talking about. No one said to ignore Leviticus. Just understand it's time and place. It was written for people under the Mosaic Law and there is a distinction made between the moral, civil, and ceremonial aspects.

Of course, it's easier to just not do any study on the topic and spout off without knowledge.

You: Where's the guidebook to passages in the Bible that don't apply to those living in modern day U.S.A?

Me: A little book called "Galatians."

You: Do they have a "red letter" edition which highlights all the parts that no longer apply?

Me: Yep. It'd be a shame to have to actually go to a library and study this kind of thing.



You: If ancient slavery was different from modern slavery maybe ancient homosexuality was different from modern homosexuality.

Me: Anatomy doesn't change. Social customs do.



You: Apparently the Greeks considered homosexuality among grown men differently than men having sex with young boys (aka pederasty).

Maybe that kind of homosexuality didn't matter in Biblical times. It would explain a lot.

Me: Do tell me what you've read of the Greeks.

Nick said...

Me:"Again, slavery in the ancient world was different from the modern world."

Iztok: How is that?

Me: Again, tell me what you've read on ANE culture.

Iztok: Slaves were bought and sold in ancient times as well as in modern.

Me: Hitler and Jesus both had followings, therefore, they have everything in common.

Iztok: Leviticus 25:44-46 amongst others is clear that slaves were bought and sold.

Slaves were beaten in ancient times as well as in modern.

Me: Aristotle and Plato were both Greek philosophers, therefore their philosophy was identical.

Iztok: Exodus 21:20-21 is obvious.

Ancient as well as modern times had sex slaves.

Exodus 21:7-11 (A man can buy as many sex slaves as he wants as long as he feeds them, clothes them, and screws them!)

Me: You do realize that that system actually protected women. Right?

Iztok: Jesus was clear what he thought about slaves (Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Luke 12:47-48)

Me: Which is why the church was eventually the force that ended slavery. It was a fact in the ANE world. Biblical standards were far better than any other standards though.

Iztok said...

Nick, again, in what way?

They were selling, buying, beating, raping and otherwise abusing slaves. How is that different?

And no, mentioned passage wasn't there to protect sex slave. Read it carefully.

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

Again, as long as he keeps her fed and sexually abuses her he can keep her, otherwise he has to release her.

How is that protection?

pornstudent said...

"Gays and lesbians have the same rights as anyone else. They can marry anyone else of the opposite sex." - Nick

They want to marry who they love.

It's possible to be a social conservative and support gay marriage, even encourage it, as David Brooks does, "We shouldn’t just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity."

Does it mean something that Biblical slavery is being defended by the same person that wants to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry? There are many religious people, Christians even, whose faith allows them to be less defensive and more loving.

Nick said...

Sorry Porn. I'm not defining anything. I'm describing it. It would be wise of anyone to simply go and study the culture and find out what was going on.

And no, you're not allowed to marry someone just because you love them. By that standard, you could marry your sister, mother, daughter, etc.

When you go to the court and ask for a marriage license, they don't ask if you love the person you want to marry. It has nothing to do with it. They only want to know if you're male and female and capable of producing children.

Homosexuals have the same rights as everyone else does still. They want all new rights.

Nick said...

Iztok. Read the passage. Still not convinced. You speak about raping and it's just not something in there. A wife had high standards as to how she was to be treated and if you want to see if I'm correct, look and see how biblical slavery was and compare it to slavery in other cultures at the time.

pornstudent said...

Nick, I was appealing to your love and empathy for other human beings. There are men who love other men in the same way you will love your future wife. They want a family, to buy a home together, to get old together, and to be accepted as equal members of our society.

Nevertheless, gays and lesbians do have the right to marry until a constitutional amendment takes that right away:

"In light of the fundamental nature of the substantive rights embodied in the right to marry - and their central importance to an individual's opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society - the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all individuals and couples, without regard to their sexual orientation." - Chief Justice Ronald George

Californians and other Americans may vote to amend their constitutions to take away the rights of their fellow citizens. That will be a sad day for millions of gays and lesbians, for those who care, and for those who value equal rights and freedom.

Anonymous said...

Aside from trying to evade the question, why not just come out and tell us how slavery was so different in the ancient near east?

Since you avoid the obvious similarities such as people being bought and sold, owned, and worked for the benefit of their masters, fill us in.

Were slaves not beaten, perhaps? Or maybe women weren't used for sex or pimped out for a few bucks?

What was so different about slavery in the ancient world?

BTW, Nick, I have a couple of Pritchard books on the ancient near east I could dust off, but maybe you can just rattle off a few points from the top of your head on this ancient slavery business.

I obviously need a refresher. But I will let you know that I have read the entire Code of Hammurabi and that's full of stuff on slavery.

So maybe you have some more personal anecdotes to share?

Anonymous said...

Oh, nick, and while you're at it how about cluing us all in on how the Old Testament DIDN'T borrow a lot of stuff (like laws in Leviticus, for example) from their neighbors.

I mean, God just gave those laws directly to ancient Jews, carved in stone, right?

No way they could have picked up any of that stuff from the neighbors.

Iztok said...

"You speak about raping and it's just not something in there."

Are you actually saying that sex slaves mentioned in that passage were consenting freely to having sex? They had an option to refuse and leave the owner?

Danbo59 said...

Iztok wrote that MW defines marriage as a state of two persons of the same sex, "...like that of a traditional marriage."

Key word -- like.

Key word -- traditional.

Homosexual 'marriage' won't ever hold any worth for me, no matter how many courts make new law instead of interpret existing law.

pornstudent said...

Gay marriage is people loving and committing themselves to one another.

If you would like to know how a Christian can accept same-sex marriage, see Does God bless same-sex marriage?.

Anonymous2 said...

Brian and Porn Student,

Enjoyed your postings. But the wing nuts will be too busy trying to push through a Constitutional amendment to change our coinage rather than to ban gay marriage. (And Porn Student, the states can ban all they want. What really counts is at the level of the United States Constitution and its interpretation – not the lower state level).

There’s an email making the rounds that is attempting to make a big deal of the fact that the new $1 U. S. coins do not carry the motto “In God We Trust”. I checked the ones I’ve received as change at the local light-rail stations. Sure enough, it’s not there. Thank God someone in our secular government had enough sense to mint a secular coin.

I’ve never figured out whose God we are supposed to be trusting based on that motto, or why it is so important to have it on a secular coin. No doubt there will be a right-wing-nut push for at least an executive order goading the mint to add it to the new coins. Meanwhile, I’m cashing in my paper money for these ‘godless” coins as fast as I can, because they are going to be worth a fortune soon.

Iztok said...

Are you sure? 'coz I think motto is engraved from the side.

Anonymous said...

Well, now that our pennies and nickels are worth more as scrap metal than U.S. currency, you'd think people would be embarrassed by placing "In God We Trust" on those coins.

But oddly enough I did see one of those full page ads for "free" gold coins that mentioned something about being the last ones to have "In God We Trust" on them or some such crap.

So, I'm looking for the price of gold to drop soon as well.

Anonymous said...

Cashing in your money for the "godless" coins reminds me that one of the atheist groups I belonged to actually awarded "godless" paper currency to their esteemed colleagues as a novelty prize.

They actually collected those bills printed before the motto was put on them. Not sure they were ever worth more as collectors items, though.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Nick, when you're explaining Biblical slavery make sure you don't just talk about Jewish slaves of Jews, of course, as fellow Jews they got special discounts.

Tell us about the non-Jewish slaves, those slaves of "other nations", the real slaves.

Could they easily claim their freedom and were they regularly freed anyway?

Nick said...

Porn. I do have love and empathy for human beings. What does that have to do with the situation at hand? Your claim was that they don't have equal rights. Well, they do. They want different rights.

Nick said...

And I'll go on and answer en masse the differences in slavery. Now I will grant there are similarities between OT law and surrounding law. Why shouldn't there be? That fits in with the law written on our hearts. There are distinct differences though, particularly in many of the moral aspects.

Slavery in Israel, for one, was not based on going after one ethnic group and enslaving them. Masters were to be kind to their slaves and treat them right.

Also, the slave was to be seen as a person the whole time. In America, slaves weren't even considered persons. The slave could have his own family for instance and apparently, some slaves were treated well. They wanted to stay with their masters.

A third point for now is that slaves were routinely to be set free.

Now if someone wants to point out the huge distinctions between Israelite slaves and non-Israelite slaves, go ahead, but the Israelites were always remembered how to treat foreigners as they were foreigners in Egypt.

As for the Exodus 21 passage, there is not a mention of "sex slave" in the first part. It's simply a female doing work. Oddly, some people seem to think that automatically means sex.

As for a daughter being given to a son in the last part, note that the son better be sure of his decision. He is not to deprive the wife at all of what? Her rights. All the burden is put on the man. Also, if he was wanting to take another wife, he'd have to give the first wife equal time and pay, something not feasible for many Israelites.

Btw, can someone tell me the moral standard being used to condemn slavery?

pornstudent said...

"I do have love and empathy for human beings. What does that have to do with the situation at hand?" - Nick

"Btw, can someone tell me the moral standard being used...?" - Nick

pornstudent said...

If we think our moral standard is outside of ourselves, then we'll try to act according to what that outside morality says. What love and empathy that is our own becomes secondary, recycled fragmented and confused.

Iztok said...

"Slavery in Israel, for one, was not based on going after one ethnic group and enslaving them. Masters were to be kind to their slaves and treat them right."

Sure. As it is prescribed: "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property." (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

"Also, the slave was to be seen as a person the whole time. In America, slaves weren't even considered persons."

Here is how: "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way." (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

"The slave could have his own family for instance and apparently, some slaves were treated well. They wanted to stay with their masters."

I am sure slaves in US could have their own family. Or you disagree Nick? I am also sure some slaves in US were treated well and wanted to stay with their masters. However look to the Bible to see in context how this "wanted to stay" was coerced.

"If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

So master keeps "freed" slave's wife and kids as hostage so slave "wants to" stay with master this becoming a permanent slave.

"As for the Exodus 21 passage, there is not a mention of "sex slave" in the first part."

I am sure you are reading this out of context. If you read surrounding text and other books of the Bible it is clear that this was a sex slave thing. You can't take this single beginning of the passage out of context and claim this wasn't concerning female sex slaves.

"can someone tell me the moral standard being used to condemn slavery?"

Well surely we can't use God's or Bible standards can we? If we would use this we would have to condone it. Which was precise reason for whole this demonstration.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous2 wrote, "There’s an email making the rounds that is attempting to make a big deal of the fact that the new $1 U. S. coins do not carry the motto “In God We Trust”. I checked the ones I’ve received as change at the local light-rail stations. Sure enough, it’s not there. Thank God someone in our secular government had enough sense to mint a secular coin."

LOL. Try again. The inscription "In God We Trust," along with the mint date and mint mark are inscribed on the edge of the coin -- on the ridged edge. take another look, my friend. "In God We Trust" is alive and well on our coinage.

Are all your "facts" as shoddy as this one? That's what you get when all your "thoughts" come from someone else's internet musings.

Nick said...

Porn. Our love IS secondary Scripturally. We love because he first loved us. What is the standard I see? It's the Trinity. God is in an eternal love relationship and invites us all to join in that love. He doesn't need us though for it. We are not filling an emptiness in the heart of God. It is the love of abundance. He also loves us for who we are and not for what we do.

Now I don't have anything against homosexuals. Where I used to work before I moved here, I worked alongside one. I didn't treat him differently than anyone else. I could easily call him a friend. If he'd asked me for my views point blank though, I would have told him. Because I hated him? No. Because I had love for him as a friend like any other friend.

It must be understood today that disagreement with the way someone behaves or the views they hold does not equal an attack on the person.

Nick said...

Iztok: Sure. As it is prescribed: "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property." (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

Me: Let's see how this fits in. If the slave dies, the master will be punished. It would be considered as murder. Why the addendum?

Because Israelites were not naturally wealthy. Having someone work for you was a privilege and you'd want to make sure you took care of those that worked for you. You would not be wreckless with them. A death would be seen to be unintentional.



Iztok: Here is how: "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way." (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

Me: There is a point. Right? Notice that the word is simply get and acquire that is used. It is not referring to conquering.

Also, slavery was more of an "in-house, in-family" kind of thing back then. The slave would be seen as part of the household.



Iztok: I am sure slaves in US could have their own family. Or you disagree Nick? I am also sure some slaves in US were treated well and wanted to stay with their masters. However look to the Bible to see in context how this "wanted to stay" was coerced.

Me: Yes. I know how it was done and it was not coerced. It was through a mark in the ear done by an awl. In such an age before ID cards were carried, it makes sense. The person did this willingly. (For the record, I've read the whole of Scripture a number of times. You're not going to show me a verse I haven't seen.)

Are we going to complain that the treatment now is supposedly "Cruel and unusual"?

Iztok: "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

Iztok: So master keeps "freed" slave's wife and kids as hostage so slave "wants to" stay with master this becoming a permanent slave.

Me: I assume you have a point somewhere....



Iztok: I am sure you are reading this out of context. If you read surrounding text and other books of the Bible it is clear that this was a sex slave thing. You can't take this single beginning of the passage out of context and claim this wasn't concerning female sex slaves.

Me: Let's suppose it was.

This would often be done by a man to help his daughter actually. In doing so, he would be putting her in a better position by getting her in a well-to-do family. Keep in mind the way this lady was supposed to be treated.



Iztok: Well surely we can't use God's or Bible standards can we? If we would use this we would have to condone it. Which was precise reason for whole this demonstration.

Me: And we can't condone it because it violates some moral standard supposedly. Unfortunately, we're never told what this standard is or the basis for it.

You just want it to be taken on faith?

Iztok said...

Nick, I understand that you have a need to use Bible as your guide and this condone slavery as long as it is done in a "good old Bible way". That is fine. Some of us do think bit more about human rights then that.

"And we can't condone it because it violates some moral standard supposedly. Unfortunately, we're never told what this standard is or the basis for it."

Something that pre-dates scripture and is observed in certain other sentient beings is called golden rule. It is not unique to religious people.

Nick said...

Ah Iztok. I would prefer a real reply that actually goes with through the points raised. Perhaps I am expecting too much. I really don't see slavery in the ANE as slavery in the New World simply because of the evidence.

As for the Golden Rule, please show where it pre-dates the NT, and remember, I am wanting the Golden Rule in the positive form. The negative form shows up, but I've yet to see the positive pre-Christ.

Also, could you tell me if it's moral to follow the golden rule? Why or why not from the atheistic position?

And those who believe more in human rights, does this include all the atheistic regimes of the 20th century? Those were seen as great exemplars of human rights after all.

Iztok said...

Nick, what points? I happen to disagree with you that beating slaves was any different back then then in more modern times. Neither slave owners were interested in destroying their property. It would not be a good thing in general.

You don't see how not releasing slave's wife and children is coercing slaves into staying. As a father and a husband I can understand why someone's freedom would come second to desire to stay with one's family. So playing to exploit such human behavior is coercing into staying in my mind.

There is no indication that slaves were any more "in-house" vs. "on the field" in the Bible. It would not be unreasonable to assume that slaves were used on the fields as well. I can't imagine slave would be used in home to cook meal while owners would be working fields. I guess you can.

System was protecting women? You mean that women were ok as long as they were regularly forced into sex and fed and put clothes on their back? And in case any of the above wasn't provided they would go free? This you call protection?

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick, what points?

Me: The ones I raised.

Iztok: I happen to disagree with you that beating slaves was any different back then then in more modern times. Neither slave owners were interested in destroying their property. It would not be a good thing in general.

Me: Major difference. It was seen as murder in the Bible and if your servant lost even a tooth, he got his freedom.

Iztok: You don't see how not releasing slave's wife and children is coercing slaves into staying. As a father and a husband I can understand why someone's freedom would come second to desire to stay with one's family. So playing to exploit such human behavior is coercing into staying in my mind.

Me: And there's your mistake. You're looking at this from a modern perspective.

The idea of falling in love and getting married is relatively new. The deep emotional commitment we see today was not the reason people got married in the past. Now that emotional bond did grow no doubt, but it was not the reason for the marriage.

Keep in mind that this man who married would have married another servant in the household. That would mean, that which belonged to the owner. In a six year period, there wouldn't have been much time for an emotional bond to develop if much of the time was spent in nursing and childbirth, which it probably was.

If he wanted to keep his wife, he could go with the awl method or, seeing as he could own property, he could pay a bride price.

Iztok: There is no indication that slaves were any more "in-house" vs. "on the field" in the Bible. It would not be unreasonable to assume that slaves were used on the fields as well. I can't imagine slave would be used in home to cook meal while owners would be working fields. I guess you can.

Me: In-house does not refer to the location of work. It refers to the relation to the household. In the ANE, it wasn't so much individuals relating as households relating.

Iztok: System was protecting women? You mean that women were ok as long as they were regularly forced into sex and fed and put clothes on their back? And in case any of the above wasn't provided they would go free? This you call protection?

Me: In those days, yes. A father would sell his daughter if the family was in debt. The selling to another household would be a step-up and would provide financial security for the daughter and build a union between the two households.

The girl in this situation could be set free far easier than a man could be and she had many stipulations upon which she was supposed to be treated and if she wasn't treated right, legal action could be taken.

In the ANE, this was quite humane.

Btw, where's that golden rule?

Iztok said...

Nick, you forget that Bible supposedly is work of all knowing eternal God that wrote this for all times including today's. Unless you are claiming that this was work of men for the time period and does not apply today?

Wouldn't all knowing God would write something that applies across all times past end present?

Iztok said...

Nick, you forget that Bible supposedly is work of all knowing eternal God that wrote this for all times including today's. Unless you are claiming that this was work of men for the time period and does not apply today?

Wouldn't all knowing God would write something that applies across all times past end present?

Anonymous said...

Nick, the Golden Rule is in the writings of Confucius. Take a look.

Anonymous said...

Of course the Bible is going to tell Jews to treat Jewish slaves better than foreign slaves.

So how is treating one ethnic group of slaves better than another different from targeting ethnic groups for slavery.

It's basically the difference between an indentured servant and a slave in more modern terms. Jews held other jews as indentured servants, not as property.

Anonymous said...

And on the subject of homosexuality, why doesn't the Bible say much about Lesbians? Is that not also an abomination? Or is it just when a man lays with a man. Assuming, of course, that human anatomy has remained somewhat constant since that time.

Anonymous said...

Nick, just read your comment on the "negative" form of the Golden Rule. That was a lie made up by missionaries who couldn't believe that mere pagans could develop a similar rule.

So they referred to it as the "silver rule" to imply that it was somehow inferior. Simple racism was behind that.

Nick said...

to Iztok, I say no. God does not need to write something that will have direct rules for every culture across time. There are simply principles involved. God was leading a people out of bondage and giving them rules to live by. I see no reason God has to abide by your request.

To the Anonymous speaker:

The rule of Lesbianism is the same as that of men. Paul made it clear in Romans 1:26-27.

Now if you want to say Confucius had the Golden Rule, which I was expecting you to say, then please give me a source.

Iztok said...

"God does not need to write something that will have direct rules for every culture across time."

Why call him omniscient then? It looks to me that people like you need to come up in defense of such apparent lack of forethought.

Anonymous said...

Confucius and his immediate followers had a lot to say about the concept of reciprocity, not just a single phrase.

But I think you know where to find it. If nothing else you can Google "golden rule" or "silver rule" and find the phrase. Then it is a simple step to find the source and read a little after that.

You see, even the Chinese had books with chapters and verses in them for easy reference and so people could read things in context.

But just as you challenged me to read something about slavery in the ANE (which I already had), I am challenging you to dig a little beyond the Christian commentary on Confucius (which is bullshit, btw).

See if you can find a source that goes about 20 words or so after that famous phrase and read that for the "positive" spin on the phrase that Christians like to say is lacking in the rule.

I promise you it's there and if you find it you will know more about Confucianism than 99.9% of Christians who only read "Christian" sources.

Nick said...

Iztok: Why call him omniscient then? It looks to me that people like you need to come up in defense of such apparent lack of forethought.

Me: Because he knows all things. Is that somehow contradicted because he doesn't present things the way you'd like?

Nick said...

You: Confucius and his immediate followers had a lot to say about the concept of reciprocity, not just a single phrase.

But I think you know where to find it. If nothing else you can Google "golden rule" or "silver rule" and find the phrase. Then it is a simple step to find the source and read a little after that.

Me: Actually, I have something better. I have a copy of the Analects right here and was reading it last night. Found in Book 15, chapter 22 the silver rule written there.

Now I'll be interested if I find the golden rule later on, but for now, I only find silver.

Analects: Tsze-kung asked, saying, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

You: You see, even the Chinese had books with chapters and verses in them for easy reference and so people could read things in context.

Me: I know that because I happen to own a copy. Silly assumption that Christians read only Christian works.

You: But just as you challenged me to read something about slavery in the ANE (which I already had),

Me: And it didn'ts how

You: I am challenging you to dig a little beyond the Christian commentary on Confucius (which is bullshit, btw).

Me: Good, because I don't own a Christian commentary on Confucius. Wanna take your foot out of your mouth now?

You: See if you can find a source that goes about 20 words or so after that famous phrase and read that for the "positive" spin on the phrase that Christians like to say is lacking in the rule.

Me: Haven't yet. Pity I have to do your homework for you though when you made the claim.

You: I promise you it's there and if you find it you will know more about Confucianism than 99.9% of Christians who only read "Christian" sources.

Me: For someone who knows it's there, you could have given the passage, especially since you knew about chapters and verses.

And no, I don't just read Christian sources. I read the other side as well. I come back to the cross every single time.

Meanwhile, you have made an accusation towards the missionaries. Can you back that the golden rule is in other religions and that if it is, the lie can be traced to missionaries?

pornstudent said...

If God thought/thinks slavery was/is wrong, a Commandment would have said, "Don't have slaves." Another example of how our morality is better than God's.

Iztok said...

Nick, "Because he knows all things. Is that somehow contradicted because he doesn't present things the way you'd like?"

Apparently he doesn't know all things. That is what I am saying. If he would he would have inspired book that would be valid across time (past, present, future).

Epicurius once said something that still doesn't have satisfactory answer:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"

Danbo59 said...

pornstudent wrote, "If God thought/thinks slavery was/is wrong, a Commandment would have said, "Don't have slaves.""

Jesus delivered such a commandment -- it was called The Great Commandment.

Danbo59 said...

Iztok oversimplifies in writing, ""Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent."

Wrong conclusion.

No, God is not malevolent. God allows evil to exist such that man might be the better for it -- such that man might still exercise his free will and choose what is good to the Glory of God.

You have to choose to do good to defeat evil. If there is no choice, there is no victory.

It's like charity vs. taxes -- being taxed and forced to pay for welfare is not charity. Only when giving is a conscious action of the free will is it charity. LOve of God is worthless if it is forced -- you have to make a conscious decision to love God (thereby, rejecting evil).

Iztok said...

Danbo, as always your explanation fails to explain earthquakes, tsunamies, suffering of innocent children and animals.

It would only explain (perhaps) those who can choose. It would not explain those who do not have an option or ability to choose.

Danbo59 said...

Iztok rehashes the same old song when he says, "Danbo, as always your explanation fails to explain earthquakes, tsunamies, suffering of innocent children and animals.

It would only explain (perhaps) those who can choose. It would not explain those who do not have an option or ability to choose."

I've explained this, too, a zillion times. You just ask the same questions over and over. The answer is in my blog so I wouldn't have to type it here again.

You know the answer to this question, you just want to grind an old saw for the newcomers.

I expect your old 'God-causes-spontaneous-abortions' argument to rear its ugly head any minute now.

[Innocent(???) animals? Tell me, how can an animal be guilty?]

Danbo59 said...

Illustrating a point, I last said, "I expect your old 'God-causes-spontaneous-abortions' argument to rear its ugly head any minute now."

Does knowing that mean I planned it?

Nick said...

Iztok. The Problem of Evil is a simple one. I did a debate on TheologyWeb with John Loftus on the topic and it was specifically on the topic of natural evil.

When I get my research paper back that I wrote on the topic reviewing his arguments on God and the problem of natural evil in his book "Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains", I'd be glad to give it to you via email if you wish.

The problem with the problem of evil is that too often, people think emotionally instead of thinking rationally. It'd be another long session, but I'd be glad to discuss it if need be.

And Porn, believe it or not, slavery in the ANE was not meant to aid the elite. It was meant to aid the poor. Many a free person would sell themselves into slavery because they could make a better living that way.

You honestly have to stop thinking Civil War whenever you hear slavery.

pornstudent said...

Slavery in the Bible

Nick said...

Porn. You wanna post something sometime that actually tries to understand the ANE culture? The link you gave has zip understanding of it.

pornstudent said...

Most of Slavery in the Bible is text quoted from the Bible. The Bible does tell us about ANE culture. But the point we're making is that the God of the Bible could have commanded the Israelites to not have slaves (call them what you want). Instead, God told the Israelites they could treat people as property. God told the owners that they could beat their slaves as much as they wanted as long as the slaves survived two days after the beating.

I can understand your effort to excuse God; it's hard to keep believing otherwise. It's not necessary, though; you can let the god of the Bible go, the god that is yourself remains.

Anonymous said...

Nick, you may not "own" a Christian commentary on Confucius, but you defer to such commentary when you refer to the "silver rule".

At least your quote has some context aside from the excerpt that parallels the "golden rule" which offers a clue to a better understanding.

Note that the emphasis is on the "word" reciprocation(shu), and that the "rule" is primarily an example or clarification.

Reciprocation is not a purely negative term, it would include both the "silver" and "golden" rules. The example they used may have been in a negative form, but that is not the only way to view shu.

Chinese uses a lot of ideograms, and the one for reciprocation, shu, is one of the ideas central to Confucianism.

The explanatory phrase was singled out by westerners because it is so similar to the golden rule, but rather than examine shu more closely, they just pronounced the "silver rule" as inferior because it was in the negative.

If you want to understand what is really meant by the "silver rule" as it was called by outsiders, you need to understand shu.

Maybe western writings would be more direct and would only have one single specific meaning of that single phrase, but ideograms can be more complex than that.

I'll see if I can find a more western example of the rule BCE.

Iztok said...

"The Problem of Evil is a simple one."

No it is not a simple one. It is a topic most Christians avoid as a plague as it doesn't go together with what they claim their God is all about. The whole slew of excuses are being brought up to try to minimize damage and a lot of mental compartmentalization is done by followers in order to get through this.

From "original sin" thing, to "God knows better, who are we to question". Facts still remain that this is not explained sufficiently with presence of omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent God. While it is much simpler to be explained with non-existence of such being.

I am just reading: "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer" by Bart D. Ehrman

Actually I have it on audible and facing a drive to ATL this afternoon and I will listen to it.

Nick said...

Porn: Most of Slavery in the Bible is text quoted from the Bible. The Bible does tell us about ANE culture. But the point we're making is that the God of the Bible could have commanded the Israelites to not have slaves (call them what you want). Instead, God told the Israelites they could treat people as property. God told the owners that they could beat their slaves as much as they wanted as long as the slaves survived two days after the beating.

I can understand your effort to excuse God; it's hard to keep believing otherwise. It's not necessary, though; you can let the god of the Bible go, the god that is yourself remains.

Me: Yes. It's quoted from the Bible, but it has a loaded term in slavery. As I've been arguing, slavery in the ancient world was different from it is today.

I would suggest you actually check some resources on ANE culture.

Nick said...

Anonymous: Nick, you may not "own" a Christian commentary on Confucius, but you defer to such commentary when you refer to the "silver rule".

At least your quote has some context aside from the excerpt that parallels the "golden rule" which offers a clue to a better understanding.

Note that the emphasis is on the "word" reciprocation(shu), and that the "rule" is primarily an example or clarification.

Reciprocation is not a purely negative term, it would include both the "silver" and "golden" rules. The example they used may have been in a negative form, but that is not the only way to view shu.

Chinese uses a lot of ideograms, and the one for reciprocation, shu, is one of the ideas central to Confucianism.

The explanatory phrase was singled out by westerners because it is so similar to the golden rule, but rather than examine shu more closely, they just pronounced the "silver rule" as inferior because it was in the negative.

If you want to understand what is really meant by the "silver rule" as it was called by outsiders, you need to understand shu.

Maybe western writings would be more direct and would only have one single specific meaning of that single phrase, but ideograms can be more complex than that.

I'll see if I can find a more western example of the rule BCE.

Me: Actually, my quote is from the Analects itself. Now if you want to show it has the negative form but really refers to the positive form, you're free to try.

Nick said...

Iztok: No it is not a simple one. It is a topic most Christians avoid as a plague as it doesn't go together with what they claim their God is all about. The whole slew of excuses are being brought up to try to minimize damage and a lot of mental compartmentalization is done by followers in order to get through this.

Me: Most avoid it like the plague. Most avoid learning anything like the plague sadly. I don't. I've debated on this topic. I've done research on this topic. Hopefully before too long, I'll have something on the Christian Apologetics Journal on this topic.

By the way Iztok, you can't raise up the problem of evil unless you believe in an objective moral standard. Do you have one yet?

Iztok: From "original sin" thing, to "God knows better, who are we to question". Facts still remain that this is not explained sufficiently with presence of omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent God. While it is much simpler to be explained with non-existence of such being.

Me: But without God, there is no good or evil as God is the source of the moral law by which we recognize good and evil. Evil always implies an ought also. Things ought not to be like this. Where did we get that idea?

Also Iztok, can you tell me the purpose of this world?

Iztok: I am just reading: "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer" by Bart D. Ehrman

Actually I have it on audible and facing a drive to ATL this afternoon and I will listen to it.

Me: And while I've got a load to read for class, I do have another friend reading that. He called me the other night with a question from it. I found it quite humorous.

Sorry. Suffering isn't God's problem. It might be Ehrman's, but it's not God's.

Audible in the car? Off-topic, please do tell how that works. Computers aren't my main thing and that sounds fascinating!

pornstudent said...

Since when is God's morality influenced by a culture? Ancient culture does not excuse God from saying people can be treated as property.

Nick said...

Sorry Porn. Property is a wrong term to use. What a slave was in the those times was economic output. It's not different from work today. A boss hires you or if you're a boss, you hire someone because of the output they can produce for your company. The Israelites referred to the value of the land the same way.

Again, try to read something on slavery in the ANE.

pornstudent said...

Nick, I'm reading the Bible. It tells me what the God of the Bible said.

Leviticus 25:45 says, "You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property."

If I were an expert on slavery in the ANE, it wouldn't change the fact that God said people can be treated as property. If it were common practice that people were treated as property in ANE, and if people wanted and enjoyed being treated as property, it wouldn't change the fact that, according to the Bible, God said it was OK to treat people as property.

Exodus 21:20-21 says, "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property."

If I were an expert on slavery in the ANE, it wouldn't change the fact that God said it was OK to strike slaves as long as they survived for a day or two; since, after all, the slave was a property.

Iztok said...

Nick: "By the way Iztok, you can't raise up the problem of evil unless you believe in an objective moral standard."

Of course you can. You fail to demonstrate how such external (to our humanity) standard is required.

"But without God, there is no good or evil as God is the source of the moral law by which we recognize good and evil."

Obviously false statement.

Is something good because God said it is good or it is something good just announced as good by God? I.e. can God declare murder as good?

Also see item #23 at http://mnatheists.org/content/view/64/1/

"Also Iztok, can you tell me the purpose of this world?"

No. Neither can you. Seriously, purpose is not a requirement for existence. So why bother with question that doesn't make sense?

"Audible in the car? Off-topic, please do tell how that works."

I have GPS (TomTom) and iPod touch both capable of loading audio books. I subscribe to audible.com and download one book per month. Since I travel a lot I use time to read or listen to learn. GPS is fine but only ok when driving as airlines don't allow it on board anymore so I recently bought iPod for this.

Nick said...

Porn: Nick, I'm reading the Bible. It tells me what the God of the Bible said.

Leviticus 25:45 says, "You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property."

Me: And the Bible is written in what is called a high-context society. It assumes you have a basic understanding of what is going on. That actually in our day requires research. Property in this case again refers to economic output. My employer can treat me the same way.

Porn: If I were an expert on slavery in the ANE, it wouldn't change the fact that God said people can be treated as property. If it were common practice that people were treated as property in ANE, and if people wanted and enjoyed being treated as property, it wouldn't change the fact that, according to the Bible, God said it was OK to treat people as property.

Me: And you're using the wrong idea of property. You're using a modern idea instead of an ancient idea.

Porn: Exodus 21:20-21 says, "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property."

If I were an expert on slavery in the ANE, it wouldn't change the fact that God said it was OK to strike slaves as long as they survived for a day or two; since, after all, the slave was a property.

Me: Newsflash: The same could apply to beating free men to discipline them. That was the method of discipline back then and slaves got treated the same as anyone else.

Nick said...

Nick: "By the way Iztok, you can't raise up the problem of evil unless you believe in an objective moral standard."

Iztok: Of course you can. You fail to demonstrate how such external (to our humanity) standard is required.

Me: If there is not a standard outside of us, then the standard is simply internal and subjective. Why should I abide by your standard?

Me: "But without God, there is no good or evil as God is the source of the moral law by which we recognize good and evil."

Iztok: Obviously false statement.

Is something good because God said it is good or it is something good just announced as good by God? I.e. can God declare murder as good?

Me: Silly. That dilemma has been answered for a long time. (And I am one who has read the original dialogue.) Morality refers to actions and God is in eternal action on a social level within himself in the Trinity. The morality we are to follow is that which reflects the eternal relationship in the Trinity. It's going between the horns of the dilemma. Something is good because it reflects the nature of God.

Iztok:Also see item #23 at http://mnatheists.org/content/view/64/1/

Me: I hope you're not serious....

Going to other secular codes actually shows my point. There is a remarkable similarity in several areas of morality that we all know and this is what the Bible affirms itself! It tells us that the law is written on the heart. We are not told we get our moral code from the Bible, though I believe the Bible teaches morality. The Bible affirms the moral code that is already there.

Do you not remember what Kant said? Two things hold him in wonder. The Starry heavens above and the moral law within. Now I disagree with his categorical imperative but he got one thing right, there is an ought to morality. Evolutionary morality can't explain that.

(By the way, if morality is evolving, then you have no basis to condemn the OT. I could say "It was moral then." The only way to say X is better than Y is to have some standard independent of both of them.)

"Also Iztok, can you tell me the purpose of this world?"

Iztok: No. Neither can you. Seriously, purpose is not a requirement for existence. So why bother with question that doesn't make sense?

Me: It'd be nice if you knew the point I was going to make before you went on with your own.

First off, how do you know I don't know the purpose?

Second though, let's suppose I don't. Then why critique this world? It makes no sense to fault a hammer for not loosening screws since we know the purpose of a hammer is to deal with nails. Yet you fault this world and you don't even know the purpose of this world.

And if there is no purpose in this world, why should I think anything in this world has purpose?



Iztok: I have GPS (TomTom) and iPod touch both capable of loading audio books. I subscribe to audible.com and download one book per month. Since I travel a lot I use time to read or listen to learn. GPS is fine but only ok when driving as airlines don't allow it on board anymore so I recently bought iPod for this.

Me: When I get a better job with more income, I shall have to consider this. The local libraries don't seem to have the Portable Professor I loved listening to. Audio books on CD though are the way I read the Harry Potter series, which I deeply love.

pornstudent said...

Exodus 21:20-21 says, "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property."

Nick - "The same could apply to beating free men to discipline them. That was the method of discipline back then and slaves got treated the same as anyone else."

Your excuse for God having said beating slaves (call them employees if you want) is OK is because that was the method of discipline back then. Isn't it time you quit defending God?

Nick said...

Porn: Not at all. We do the same kinds of things today. Parents often spank their children, those that are closest to them. Look at the punishments we use in law. We'll lock a man up. Actually, I think our society would have less trouble with crime if we did adopt stronger methods like they have in Eastern countries. We are way too soft.

And I'm just saying what the situation is. It was the same for a free man as it was for a slave. You can psychoanalyze me all you want but that doesn't answer my question. Is what I'm saying true?

pornstudent said...

Some parents spank their kids, but they could be arrested if the kids got a bruise. We don't beat employees, we don't have slaves to beat, we don't beat criminals. It's against the law to beat people. So, no, we don't do the same kinds of things today.

If our culture did beat people, it wouldn't mean it's how we'd like to be; and I wouldn't think it would be an excuse you'd want to give God for saying it's OK to beat slaves.

You would rather we become more like Eastern countries and start beating people rather than quit defending God. Religion can be dangerous.

Nick - "If there is not a standard outside of us, then the standard is simply internal and subjective. Why should I abide by your standard?"

David Brooks has an answer, "Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment."

Anonymous said...

Well, Nick, I was just going with what you gave me, it wasn't the Confucian quote I had in mind to illustrate the "rule". I'll give you mine below.

The Analects are a bit choppy and jump around from topic to topic, but they are better known. But most of this stuff is not lengthy.

The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong) fills things out better and has positive examples directly following the "silver rule":

Here's your "silver rule":

V3. When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.

Here are some positive examples immediately following:

V4. In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of which have I as yet attained.-- To serve my father, as I would require my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my prince, as I would require my minister to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my elder brother, as I would require my younger brother to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend, as I would require him to behave to me: to this I have not attained....

Anonymous said...

And in addition to Confucius you also have Mencius as a source for BCE Confucian thought, so there are even more positive examples.

Confucianism is not exactly a "sound bite" philosophy, so you have to combine different concepts to get the whole picture, but to say that its "rules" are negative is wrong.

Another mistake that Christian sources make is in mis-interpreting the idea of "reciprocity" to mean that you only do good things in expectation of getting something good in return, like "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours".

That's not true either, but you have to look at the examples rather than just the meaning of the English word "reciprocity".

In reality, "reciprocity" is not even the best translation, a lot of people refer to "self-analogy" or something along those lines, meaning that you look at yourself and project that outward.

Also, Confucianism, starts from a radically different position than Christianity. They start with man being naturally good (not naturally bad) and think that people do bad because they are in some way "forced" to do it.

So with that in mind, "not" doing something to interfere with natural goodness can have a positive result.

It's like the modern saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Nick said...

Porn: Some parents spank their kids, but they could be arrested if the kids got a bruise. We don't beat employees, we don't have slaves to beat, we don't beat criminals. It's against the law to beat people. So, no, we don't do the same kinds of things today.

Me: Oh. So because the moderns don't do it, then that means anyone who disagrees is automatically wrong?

Porn: If our culture did beat people, it wouldn't mean it's how we'd like to be; and I wouldn't think it would be an excuse you'd want to give God for saying it's OK to beat slaves.

Me: The beat is more of a discipline and it was done to everyone! Most likely, this also wouldn't be for laziness but for some offense that would be quite serious.

Porn: You would rather we become more like Eastern countries and start beating people rather than quit defending God. Religion can be dangerous.

Me: Yep. Why there's so many writings from ancient societies of people complaining. Not at all. Slaves had excellent rights in Israel.

Nick - "If there is not a standard outside of us, then the standard is simply internal and subjective. Why should I abide by your standard?"

Porn: David Brooks has an answer, "Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment."

Me: Do you even read my answers? I answered this to Iztok. Evolution cannot give an ought. If I find that all I do is simply because my genes tell me so, why ought I to keep doing such?

Nick said...

To the anonymous, note that the principle formulated is still the same. Is there a certain degree of a golden rule? To an extent, but it's very light. Christ is the first one to frame the rule entirely in the positive. Even if he wasn't, it's not going to cost me any sleep at night.

Now I'd like your documentation that the missionaries made up this "lie."

Anonymous said...

Oh crap, just saw that I didn't quote "chapter and verse" from Doctrine of the Mean.

It's Chapter 8, FWIW.

The whole thing isn't really that large.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't have documentation of the very first "lie" about Confucianism from Christians and could probably never find it.

But there are enough of them out there now that you can easily Google them.

Where else, if not from Christians in possession of the only so-called "golden" rule, would the term "silver" rule come from?

Could it be... Satan?

Anonymous said...

Nick, of course the principle is still the same. The "sound bite", though, of the "silver rule" is NOT the principle.

Shu/reciprocity/self-analogy is the principle.

And it's just one principle which can be combined with others such as ren/jen and zhong to understand Confucianism.

That's one reason the Christian commentaries are so wrong. They isolate principles that are meant to combine. They are taken completely out of context.

pornstudent said...

Nick - "Oh. So because the moderns don't do it, then that means anyone who disagrees is automatically wrong?"

Your the one who compared ancient culture to today's when you said, "We do the same kinds of things today. Parents often spank their children, those that are closest to them. Look at the punishments we use in law."

The twist is that you compared our culture to ancient culture as part of your excuse for God saying it's OK to beat people.

It turns out you think beating people is OK. You and God got something in common. Come to think of it, someone who thinks it OK to punish people by burning them with fire wouldn't have a problem beating them.

Nick - "Why should I abide by your standard?"

Research into how the brain works shows that we abide by the same standard because we "have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment." We don't try to kill our neighbors and take their possesions because of God or the police, but because we don't want to.

pornstudent said...

Nick, I don't think you want to beat people or set them on fire; we have the same instinct for empathy. Peace.

Nick said...

To the anonymous, give me a book title on Shu and I will go see if our library has it. I don't want a website for serious research.

Nick said...

Porn: I'm simply showing that what was going on back then is consistent. Now you say I don't want to beat people for instance. Not necessarily. If someone's doing something clearly wrong, I'm all for discipline and they took discipline back then seriously.

If you want to show this is wrong, you'll have to do more than "I don't like it." Please note also that the same treatment applied to a slave as it did to a freeman. In fact, the slave had more privileges than the freeman did in that case.

I seriously recommend you get some resources on slavery in the ANE. I could give a recommendation on ethics in the OT if you wanted.

By the way, this could be my last post for a bit unless I respond to something else again tonight. My roommate and I and another fellow student all need a vacation after our semester so tomorrow morning, we head out and hit the beach. I have no intention of checking my email in the morning.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I can just about guarantee you that there isn't an entire book on shu. Wish there was.

But I'll see what I can find on the missionary silver rule lie.

It's just that I've probably read a ton of books in the last 40 years or so and don't possess them all for reference. I can dig out some of them, but the odds are against me finding anything there.


I may be getting close using Google. I did find a quote from James Legge, an actual Jesuit missionary to China who translated a lot of Confucian texts.

But he was actually defending Confucius as both understanding and using the positive form of the "Golden Rule" using the same quote I provided (though I didn't use a Legge translation, I actually went to some online Chinese text sites as well)

Pretty ironic that I found a quote from a well-known Jesuit missionary scholar AGREEING with me, a poor, misguided atheist about Confucius.

Well, ain't that a hoot?

Here's that quote:

It has been said that he only gave the rule in a negative form; but he understood it also in its positive and most comprehensive form, and deplored on one occasion at least, that he had not himself always attained to taking the initiative in doing to others as he would have them do to him.
-- Rev James Legge, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 376, responding to the claim that Christ originated the positive statement of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others..." -- the negative version sometimes being denigrated as the Silver Rule

Found it in a Google search, but it's on an ATHEIST site, but maybe you have access to "The Christ" (I sure as hell don't.)

Must have been Protestant missionaries that Legge was arguing against with their "silver rule" lies.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, Nick, I did search through some boxes of books but I can't even find my 30 year old World Religion textbook and it was actually a cool book.

But I did find about a dozen of my Chinese language books (including some good ones with ancient script), so all was not lost!

Just letting you know I'm not deliberately jerking you around on this. Sometimes I remember things I can't fully reference.

We'll see, but if nothing comes up soon I'll have to stop. Got a life to live and I'm not an Analect-thumper.

I really don't have much of a dog in this Silver/Gold fight.

I'm more of a Platinum Rule guy myself.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Legge wasn't a Jesuit, just a "reverend".

Nick said...

Sure Anonymous. I'll see what i can dig up about that guy. I'm wondering why it's even being debated much anyhow. It's not like Christianity stands or falls on it.

D.J. Williams said...

Well, this thread seems to have stalled out, but Nick, if you're still following, you'll find this interesting.

Per the slavery discussion - I was reading this weekend in Galatians, and found this little illustration by Paul very interesting in light of the recent debate.

"I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father." - Galatians 4:1-2

Paul here mentions that while the heir of a grand estate is young, he is treated like any of the slaves of the house, not yet exercising his ownership and stewardship of the house. I think this sheds some interesting light on what exactly slavery was like in that culture. Certainly the son of a Carolina plantation owner couldn't have been said to be "no different than a slave." This brief mention should serve to illustrate the point that Nick's been trying to make. Just a tidbit I found interesting.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

There is a book out now about the Jesuits foray into China, Manufacturing Confucianism that might be interesting.

The golden rule in confucianism is one of substance, not necessarily form.

Not sure if it means much to Christianity, but having a substantially identical rule come from a non-son-of-god makes it a rather weak claim as being anything special.

Either way, China is pretty much on the front burner this year.

The Olympics will probably have several sideshow events provided by foreigners.

Local guy Franklin Graham seems to have created a little stir by saying that things in China aren't as bad as some people say.

I agree, it's nothing like the popular image of a major repressive regime. Burma, yes, but not China.