SCIENCE VS RELIGION

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Mark Tiedemann
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Wed Nov 05, 2014 12:41 pm

FrankChurch wrote:The Biologist Ernst Mahr thinks humans are a mistake. We should not even still exist. He could be right. He once debated Sagan on aliens and said that humans are so distinct that the fact that there are others like us somewhere else is rare.


I think Sagan would have agreed with him on that, if I understand what you mean correctly, but he would have agreed based on the variability of evolution.

As organisms, though, you could make an argument that any species extant is defying the odds. Humans have a decided advantage in being able to fight back against environment and take control of their immediate surroundings to the extent that what might eliminate other species is held in check by human creativity.

Yeah, I'd say that's unlikely.

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Rick Keeney
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Rick Keeney » Wed Nov 05, 2014 1:00 pm

FrankChurch wrote:I don't hear God's voice, guys. I do feel God in my heart. The Bible speaks to me as well. I'm just happy to see Spong this weekend. The most radical Christian in the land.

Like me.



Now there you must be wrong. For if Spong is the most radical, you cannot be like him. For he is the most. You are only second most.

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Rick Keeney
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Rick Keeney » Wed Nov 05, 2014 1:04 pm

Mark Tiedemann wrote:
Rick Keeney wrote:One of the issues I have with my faith is people claiming that God has spoken to them. Also God's absence in times of utter desperation, hardship, and evil. You'll find all Christians, from the simplest of laypersons to the most devout, well-studied priests and theologians, struggle mightily with that last one.


It seems to me...

Forgive me if I come across a bit blunt, but where's the issue? Taking a page from the gospels, Jesus said, I believe, wherever two or more of you are gathered together in my name, there I am. What does this mean if not that god is present in us and if we're there, so is god. By that reasoning, god is never absent.

What is absent is the externalized magician people call upon to make things right.

Is that god?

The hard part, it seems to me, is recognizing the implications of that. That if your faith means anything, it means that you are the one on the scene, at the time, with the responsibility. God, therefore, abandons no one---we abandon ourselves.

I say all this in the language of religion to make the larger point, which is that by any metric there is no contradiction. Believers were basically told, up front, "it's on you." Because that's where the action is, where the power lies. The hard pill to swallow is when what seems to be taken as the autopilot fails, but that's only because there wasn't one in the first place.

Atheists already understand that what needs doing people need to do. In the doing, you find god. Atheists, of course, wouldn't call it that, but doesn't it functionally amount to the same thing?

When Heinlein's Michael Valentine Smith points at Jubal and all the others and says "Thou art god" he's stating a basic truth.


That's not blunt.

And it sounds good to me.

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Ben W.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ben W. » Wed Nov 05, 2014 2:52 pm

Now, the physics alone destroyed the illusion. This person was not photographing anyone's aura. But the wish to believe was strong enough in her customers that they were willing to deny reality in order to be convinced.


I think you're getting a little closer to the heart of the matter. I don't voluntarily deny reality, but that doesn't keep me from despising how cruel and hateful it can often be. For many people, reality can be a tyrant. Bills? Poverty? Rape? Old age? Death? Bad guys winning seemingly all the time in the world? Sometimes dreary, physical solutions like prozac or psychological counselling just aren't enough.

That ache for transcendence can be subverted and turned towards delusion and fanaticism, as you've pointed out with your case, but the ache itself will always remain. Regarding it with scorn or pity (as the so-called "New Atheists" are wont to do) only fans the flame.

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Ben W.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ben W. » Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:14 pm

I have every right. You are begging the question sir. You are taking it for granted that can be no good without god, which most of the good people here have denied from the beginning. You may define "good and evil" as "God vs. Devil" - the rest of us have very different definitions if you care to ask.


I'm sorry, Steve, but that isn't a real answer. Even if you claim good can exist entirely without any help from God, you're still using terms as good and evil. For an atheist to sneer and accuse the Catholic Church of being culpable for profound evil (even if has been, in the past, you are still condemning their actions from a standpoint of objective morality. This, to me, rivals the worst sex scandal committed by a priest in terms of sheer hypocrisy.

An atheist can point his finger at the Holocaust and say "that's evil," but how? If the Nuremberg trials proved anything, it's that people will always have reasons and excuses for doing what should rightfully be considered unthinkable. What an atheist really means to say is, "that's socially unacceptable." The word 'evil' implies a fundamental purity of wickedness that goes beyond mere human psychology and into the realm of factual truth.

Mark Tiedemann
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Wed Nov 05, 2014 4:31 pm

So because we use a common vocabulary you see this as an indication that really, secretly, atheists are what? Believers in denial? Because we can't seem to define evil in any but theological terms we deconstruct our own argument?

I don't accept that you're quite that simple.

Evil is the act to willfully harm another human being for the purpose of doing harm.

There. Not a single mention of morality. But morality emerges from a considered application of that axiom.

What is good? Good would be the willful act of obstructing evil.

And between the two, we not only have a working definition of moral intent but also a full set of all the gray between the two poles. Because we then have to do a calculus for ourselves to determine what is willful harm and what crosses the line from obstruction into a different manifestation of willful harm.

What the theological moralist seems always to want is not a set of guidelines by which to make such determinations but a set of hard and fast definitions and rules that take it out of individual hands.

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FrankChurch
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby FrankChurch » Wed Nov 05, 2014 4:55 pm

Mark, why don't you call yourself an agnostic? To be an atheist you have to prove God cannot exist. That is impossible since we are dealing in different realms of reality.

What is so hard about the other a word.

Some atheists are fine because they respect religious traditions, but others are full of hate, like Dawkins and Harris. Be even handed and believe what you wilt.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Wed Nov 05, 2014 5:08 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Mark, why don't you call yourself an agnostic? To be an atheist you have to prove God cannot exist. That is impossible since we are dealing in different realms of reality. .


No, you don't. You simply have to believe that god doesn't. Can't prove a negative and all. But atheism is just that---a nonacceptance of a deity. Agnosticism, to me, is kind of a waffle word. "Well, maybe..." No. By the commonly accepted definition among believers of what god is, I reject it. I'm an atheist.

What's so hard about that?

And no, we aren't dealing with other realms of reality, only with interpretations of reality. Big difference there.

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Ben W.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ben W. » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:44 pm

Mark Tiedemann wrote:
FrankChurch wrote:Mark, why don't you call yourself an agnostic? To be an atheist you have to prove God cannot exist. That is impossible since we are dealing in different realms of reality. .


No, you don't. You simply have to believe that god doesn't. Can't prove a negative and all. But atheism is just that---a nonacceptance of a deity. Agnosticism, to me, is kind of a waffle word. "Well, maybe..." No. By the commonly accepted definition among believers of what god is, I reject it. I'm an atheist.

What's so hard about that?


Because God isn't a negative. Here's a very, very, very old argument we've all heard before:

"You can't prove God exists."

"You can't disprove God exists."

"You can't disprove the flying spaghetti monster exists either."

Here's the problem: If we're going by the conception of God being manifested as an old man with a giant white beard furrowing his brow at us from the clouds, then you can absolutely disprove His existence. Without a shadow of a doubt. But even the most literal-minded creationist out there doesn't abide by that version of God.

Also, you can disprove the existence of the flying spaghetti monster. I can supply very clear-cut reasons why spaghetti won't eventually gain sentience and attain cosmic powers. Spaghetti is a finite thing. You can see it, smell it, touch it, eat it. God simply doesn't work on that level.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Nov 06, 2014 8:18 am

Since "god" seems to be whatever anyone with a conviction says it is, then the Flying Spaghetti Monster is as valid as YHWH.

I had assumed this didn't need saying, but maybe it does. I do not believe there is an entity, however composed, which is apart from our (growing) apprehension of reality that was (a) responsible for creating said reality, (b) intrudes from time to time at the behest of those who believe it exists, or (c) establishes codes of conduct with reward and penalty systems attached. The god at the heart of the so-called Monotheistic cultures. That does not, in my opinion, exist.

I do believe something which we collectively apprehend as "god" emerges from the activities defined as conscious and/or sentient engagement with reality and is directly tied to said activity. In other words, "We" create god by recognizing an effect, a by-product of cumulative, cooperative, integrative interaction. It is not separate, it did not create us (other than perhaps in the sense of creating for us an aspect of identity), and it does not act as judge. We do all that, collectively.

Morality is an emergent property of all that. It has evolved and in the past five centuries is has clearly evolved more as a product of secular philosophy than as anything produced by theological considerations. By that, I mean our moral sense has evolved from considerations of how we treat each other on the ground in this life for the purpose of temporal betterment, rather than as an aspect of superstitious propitiation to an unseen entity that may whack us on our collective asses if we don't tow the line---a line, by the way, from the written evidence is incontestably fuzzy in terms of standards, since many of the actions recorded as having been dictated by said entity would repulse our modern moral sensibility, and yet within the context of the literature tend to be overlooked as part of the divine mystery.

I don't believe in that god. I don't believe in the supernatural, which, assertions to the contrary, the standard description of the christian god very much is a part of.

And I flatly refuse to credit the implicit nihilism held to be the only alternative this god's apologists insist on should we choose not to believe in it. Clearly, by the evidence, we do not turn into buckets of moral shit when we disbelieve.

So. Are we clear now on exactly what it is I reject when I claim to be an atheist? Arguments over the old man with the long beard and the Flying Spaghetti Monster were never serious subjects as far as I'm concerned.

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Steve Evil
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Evil » Thu Nov 06, 2014 8:49 am

Ben W. wrote:

I'm sorry, Steve, but that isn't a real answer. Even if you claim good can exist entirely without any help from God, you're still using terms as good and evil.


Yes. So what? Why do we need a deity to define it for us? Why are such things dependant on the presence of a conscious creator?

For an atheist to sneer and accuse the Catholic Church of being culpable for profound evil (even if has been, in the past, you are still condemning their actions from a standpoint of objective morality. This, to me, rivals the worst sex scandal committed by a priest in terms of sheer hypocrisy.


We'll have to agree to disagree on that one: I don't think mere hyposcisy (which I deny) rivals sex abuse.

An atheist can point his finger at the Holocaust and say "that's evil," but how? If the Nuremberg trials proved anything, it's that people will always have reasons and excuses for doing what should rightfully be considered unthinkable. What an atheist really means to say is, "that's socially unacceptable." The word 'evil' implies a fundamental purity of wickedness that goes beyond mere human psychology and into the realm of factual truth.


A great deal has been written on the nature of good and evil and great pains have been taken to define them. Just to take one example, Sam Harris defined it more or less as "causing harm to sentient beings". An atheist is perfectly capable of following the "Golden Rule" as well, the only difference being it's believed to be a law of Man rather than of God.

How does it cease to apply?

Why do we need a creator to say with confidence that the wholesale destruction of human beings is wrong?

As for "factual truth", who wants facts more than the atheist? Who has more concern with observable, demonstrable reality?

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Steve Barber
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Barber » Thu Nov 06, 2014 11:07 am

Ben, Mark and Steve are onto the crux of the conversation, I think: how do you define a "god". How do you define "God".

I would disagree that even the most conservation fundamentalist wouldn't see God as a big white guy. But that's a story for another time.

The core of the definition (nearly mistyped that as deifinition, which is funny) is where I find my gray area and cannot deny that God exists. God, as presented in Islam, Christianity and Judaism doesn't match my perception, but as I've said repeatedly: what can say they are any more correct than I?

Is the requisite for God sentience? We are sentient. We are part of the cosmos. The cosmos created itself, and the argument can be made we are the cosmos trying to understand itself.

If the definition of God is "The Creator", we know the cosmos created itself 14B years ago. We know we are part of that overall structure. We are trying to define ourselves and the nature of God, as well as the nature of the cosmos. All are, essentially, one and the same -- IMNSHO. We are God, fulfilling all those definitional requirements of what makes for a god.

God interacts with each of us insofar as we all interact with ourselves. If we are an element of God -- the creator, made intelligent because we ourselves are intelligent -- then that element is what touches us and maintains our focus. We create an external entity, but the function is the same. (The major difference is that the formal religions are controlling that perception, versus our own internal connection with the rest of the cosmos.)

It's all in the definitions and the perceptions.

In my definition of God, we are proof of God's existence because we are an element of -- not a disciple of -- that entity. When the whole of creation is the definition of "God".

Honestly, I think this was what the ancients were thinking when the first realization struck us that the world was more than the place outside our cave where we found food. It's the formal society-controlling Priest types among us who managed to much up the concept.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Nov 06, 2014 11:48 am

Ditto to Steve. As I claimed many, many posts ago, I accept the notion of a Spinozan god, which is pretty much what Steve said. Where it gets dicey among us primates is when the definition of a god is one which allows one group to judge and oppress another group, and then justifies it by claiming authority from an ancient collection of short stories. The god Steve just described is not useful to prejudice and power.

But the god of Spinoza not only doesn't require "worship" but would not know what to do with it if offered. And I think worship is a form of therapy for many people. For them they need a god personified, not to be real but to be Freud.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:12 pm

Wow. A lot to chew on. I'll try to be brief.

1. The "old man in the clouds". It's easy to deride this view of god but it should be pointed out that this idea comes from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The writers used the images that were available to them to depict the presence of god. This idea was derived in large part from the imagery associated with the Near Eastern potentate. The King, high and lifted up, sitting in glory surrounded by his retinue, ruling over his supplicants. The Bible is full of this idea. So it is a just a wee bit disingenuous for christians to mock it too readily. No one claims to think that god is a biological male either but it's not a coincidence that the so-called Abrahamic religions are so exclusively patriarchal and misogynistic.

2. Barber has defined his concept of god. Mark has defined the concept of god he rejects. I've done this repeatedly over the course of this thread. May I respectfully ask if Ben and Frank will tell what kind of god they do believe in? I am happy to leave aside for the moment the question of why you believe what you believe. Can you simply tell us what you mean when you use the word "God"?

3. Barber I can't criticize your view. I wish more religious believers actually thought the way you do. My only question is, since what you are doing, essentially, is reverencing the conditions of the reality in which we find ourselves; it's mysterious origins, our ability to think and consider these conditions, the awe and wonder associated with such consideration, why bring the god concept into it at all? It seems to me the image of god brings with it a whole host of unnecessary and irrelevant associations that might actually blind us to this reality. Do we need all that baggage?
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Lori Koonce » Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:11 pm

Ben

You seem so willing to take away my ability to call things what I think they are. What you, and most other Christians refuse to do is give me a common framework with which to have a discussion with you with.

Most people agree that molesting children is not good. And the majority of them would call it evil. Why does the fact that one doesn't believe in a god make a hill of beans difference in what we call it.

Christians are just as as good as us non believers at giving non answers, even better if I can state an opinion. I once asked a Catholic friend of mine how he knows god heals people. And in stead of giving me an answer I got told that because my mind is closed I wouldn't be able to see it. Which may be true, but that totally avoided the question. I asked him how he knew god heals, not what I thought.


You want me to believe the way you do, but you cannot give me a compelling reason why I should. Some believe that religion makes people "better". But, some of the most vile things on the planet have been done in the name of God. Some believe that without god mankind cannot be good. But, if you look around you, you know that is wrong.

So, I'm left with either a really cynical and bitter viewpoint in the opinion of most Christians. Or I can do my best to cobble together some serious moral and ethical senses based on those people who I trust and admire. Oh, and if god expected me to act like a sheep and not seriously think about what I believe, please tell me why he gave me the capacity. Sheep have no more thought processes than they need after all.


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