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Old 04-10-2007, 10:17 AM   #91
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland

This seems like a rather highfalutin explanation for why religious people tend to be happier; thinking one has certain answers to "the truly gut-wrenching questions" isn't the only attribute commonly associated with a "religious lifestyle" which might positively affect mood. Do you really think existential crises are typically the Big Thing burdening people you've known who are generally unhappy?


in my experience, yes.

but then, i know lots of highfalutin people.
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Old 04-10-2007, 10:46 AM   #92
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in my experience, religious people are no more happier then the atheists. I do think religion fills a hole in which people don't like to look into, and perhaps gives a sense of community with your church and a warm feeling of giving through the church's charities - but non religious people get that too, through other groups and their own volunteering oppurtunities.

I think life is hard on earth, no matter where you think you end up, and perhaps in some cases is harder for religious people, because they need to continue to believe, to continue to trust in something when you are surrounded by so much shit and weird stuff that goes down.

Besides, i'm quite happy and content, and I don't believe at all. I just think they're more people out there like me, quite happy living life, and not worrying too much about what happens afterwards, therefore not needed to be soothed by the idea of heaven and eternal salvation.
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Old 04-10-2007, 10:51 AM   #93
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i don't want to fall into the whole, "religion is a cushion/drug of the masses." i do believe it is a much more complex thing.

what i am trying to say is that some of these big questions are answered by religion, and they are thusly not sources of fear. the "big questions" are not the only things that make people unhappy, obviously, but i think that many things that go along with the "big questions" -- who am i? what should i do with my life? do i matter? does anyone actually love me? -- are, in effect, answered by religion as well. who loves you? God.

and that's fine. it's just inadequate to some and seems like ... not so much of a willful self-delusion, but an agreement. we can't "know" faith. we choose to have faith in the face of doubt. there is no faith without doubt. for some, the doubt cannot be overcome.
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Old 04-10-2007, 11:15 AM   #94
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
and this is a nice discussion, all.
Yea, it's the kind of conversation where I listen more than talk. Ask more than answer. I can't imagine how feeble my concepts of infinity, immortality or of a transcendent God are to the reality of them.
But it's enjoyable to ponder.
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Old 04-10-2007, 01:25 PM   #95
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
i don't want to fall into the whole, "religion is a cushion/drug of the masses." i do believe it is a much more complex thing.

what i am trying to say is that some of these big questions are answered by religion, and they are thusly not sources of fear. the "big questions" are not the only things that make people unhappy, obviously, but i think that many things that go along with the "big questions" -- who am i? what should i do with my life? do i matter? does anyone actually love me? -- are, in effect, answered by religion as well. who loves you? God.

and that's fine. it's just inadequate to some and seems like ... not so much of a willful self-delusion, but an agreement. we can't "know" faith. we choose to have faith in the face of doubt. there is no faith without doubt. for some, the doubt cannot be overcome.
It's true, I do know some religious people who talk about faith in terms of answered Big Questions and how rewarding that is. I've always had my doubts as to whether that's really what holds it all together for them, just as I've doubted people who claimed certain philosophers they'd been reading were the reason for some depressive episode they'd fallen into; but maybe that's more a blind spot in me than anything else, the unknowability of a certain kind of mind or personal history that's very different from mine. I actually tried really hard to 'become' an atheist for a couple years in college, ironically because I figured it would make life 'simpler'--the certainty of nonbelief seemed very attractive, as opposed to all the doubts occasioned by the fact that I no longer found the particular understanding of 'what' God is I'd grown up with believable, and had no wholesale replacement for it lined up. But that just didn't work; it was literally like flogging a dead horse, as if it might somehow cry uncle and cough up some hard truths if I kept rubbing its nose in just how dead it was. In the end I realized I didn't need any replacement for that old understanding...my faith was still there, my love for the touchstone the discipline of observance had always provided was still there, the whole idea of trying to master my existential predicament somehow by either discovering some grand new synthesis or decisively rejecting all of it had come to seem vain and tiresome and silly, so really, what's the problem? And I just moved on from it at that point. I wouldn't say I "overcame" anything, it was more just that I decided that whole struggle was an escapist waste of time and not much else for me.

I guess that makes me unfit to say whether I'd be 'less happy' otherwise or not; there's really no way I could know that. As far as it goes I wouldn't describe myself as a particularly 'happy' person, content enough though, and not much given, never have been, to ruminating on the precise Big Questions you mentioned. The ones that captivated me were always more 'technical' philosophical ones--epistemology questions really, like the nature of mind and perception and consciousness and so forth. Maybe I'm just shallow, lol.

I do appreciate that you're trying very hard to grapple with and pin down distinctions that don't lend themselves well to either operation. And I'm not inclined to struggle against that, because I don't feel any tension or conflict towards the conclusions you've come to--I guess because I can see every element of them except the actual lack of faith in my own. That probably makes absolutely no sense from your end, but it does from mine. The only thing that makes me tense about these types of discussions is the mutual tendency to project, if only by association, needs and desires and preoccupations that you don't in fact know are there onto whoever you're discussing with. Some of the theories people offer sometimes, 'why people believe' or 'why they don't but should' sound to me as if they must've come out of some bizarre alternate universe; I can't even begin to recognize myself in what they say, or figure out what on earth kind of worldview they're drawing this from, and I'm sure others must have had the same experience. It's not offputting though really, just disconcerting.



And Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite Bible texts, also...I don't see it the way nathan does, and don't take it as a message about 'meaningfulness,' but that's a digression and as Irvine already said, kind of beside the point here anyway.
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Old 04-10-2007, 01:43 PM   #96
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[q]I actually tried really hard to 'become' an atheist for a couple years in college, ironically because I figured it would make life 'simpler'--the certainty of nonbelief seemed very attractive, as opposed to all the doubts occasioned by the fact that I no longer found the particular understanding of 'what' God is I'd grown up with believable, and had no wholesale replacement for it lined up. But that just didn't work; it was literally like flogging a dead horse, as if it might somehow cry uncle and cough up some hard truths if I kept rubbing its nose in just how dead it was. In the end I realized I didn't need any replacement for that old understanding...my faith was still there, my love for the touchstone the discipline of observance had always provided was still there, the whole idea of trying to master my existential predicament somehow by either discovering some grand new synthesis or decisively rejecting all of it had come to seem vain and tiresome and silly, so really, what's the problem? [/q]



i think this is part of the process i was talking about, and i appreciate the fact that you appreciate the fact that i'm not trying to project but trying to understand how the system works, what it's appeal is, etc.

it seems to me that you've looked at what i might call "cold, hard reality" in the eye, and decided, nope, that's now how it is. and it's not the conclusion that's important, but the process one undergoes when arriving at faith or not. i see tremendous value at looking at the void square in the face and sizing it up and coming to terms with our own miniscule place in the space of things. i think this is one of the things behind, say, Creationism, that we have such tough time understanding that life has been lived, moment to moment, minute to minute, hour to hour, for 4.5 billion years, and that seems incomprehensible when sometimes it takes forever just to get to lunch. it's the coming to terms with the limits of our faculties, and entertaining the thought that, yes, perhaps i am deluding myself, and then making a decision about faith, or not.

i personally can't decide. i can see it both ways, am paralyzed by doubt on both sides. perhaps what i'm doing is finding some sort of nobility in this, a gleaning of strength from existential torture, that i'm brave enough to stare in the face of blankness and not run back into the warm, comforting arms of whatever cultural practices i grew up with. but i know that the above is my narrative, not anyone else's.

i suppose all i'd ask for is sincere examination. occasionally we get the snappy, "not believing in God is as much an act of faith as believing in God," or, "i can't imagine a world where God doesn't exist." and that i find frustrating. whether or not those statements are true doesn't mean that the initial quesitons weren't worth investigating.

and i supose the other thing that bothers me is the what i would term a bit of a fundamentalist outlook that i see occasionally. it seems that, to a fundamentalist outlook, there's only one moment of genuine consciousness, the decision to believe. and then the rest of the time is spent trying to be the best student in class and to continually prove to one's self -- which involves other people -- how right that moment of consciousness was. there's a poster who's not here any longer who i thought exemplified that very well. he was surely the best student in class. but what i found frustrating was a refusal -- at least as stated in FYM -- to study how the system itself works, that the religion wasn't a system, it was exempt from whatever rules we usually apply in order to understand something better.

so no idea if that makes any sense, but i'll toss it up here any way and see what happens.
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Old 04-10-2007, 03:31 PM   #97
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Quote:
Originally posted by AEON


creatio ex nihilo

Until science can explain how "something" came from "nothing" - there is room for God in the discussion. As we've discussed before, the Big Bang Theory favors the notion of a singular moment when matter came into existence. Only something "other than matter" could "cause" this to happen. Any other proposition is a non-rational viewpoint (if there was a Big Bang).
The very concept of moment is pedicated upon a time dimension so arguing that there was a temporal perod of nothing may be flawed, and in the event of an infinite universe there is no need for any creation.

God may live in the Gaps but given enough time they close and thats when people get tetchy.
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Old 04-10-2007, 05:48 PM   #98
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
it seems that, to a fundamentalist outlook, there's only one moment of genuine consciousness, the decision to believe. and then the rest of the time is spent trying to be the best student in class and to continually prove to one's self -- which involves other people -- how right that moment of consciousness was.
Irvine, as always I really enjoy your long posts. I feel like I see you best when you really grapple (as opposed to the occasional snarkiness, but then I'm not a fan of snark in general).

I'm not sure if I fall under the rubric of fundamentalism that you've defined here. I look at my own spiritual journey and those of the people around me, and in some ways I agree with you. There are Christians who too often shut their mind off -- "I'm going to Heaven, all's well with the world" -- and it strikes me as self-absorbed and just a little bit narcissistic. As if God existed only to answer their questions, instead of dragging them into deeper waters which require deeper faith, at least until we get used to swimming in those waters, and then He takes us further still. At least that's what my spiritual journey is. Thus, asking questions for me reveals the world's meaning, I suppose, because I believe that if I'm meant to be in relationship with God -- and that means me learning to understand Him as much as He understands me -- then I have to ask questions in order to sort it out...so long as I don't become so arrogant as to assume that my questions are the most important ones (or even that I'm on the right track).

Those who question, in my mind, are on the right track. "Seek," as Jesus said, "and you will find."

At the same time, we shouldn't ignore the meaning that other seekers ahead of us have found. That's why, while I'm all for ignoring the institution of religion (and I would, perhaps shockingly, include Christianity in that list), I think it's worth exploring all things and clinging to that which is true. This for me is what Solomon does in Ecclesiastes. (And, to be honest, why I hang out here so much...though less lately.)

[/sermon]
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Old 04-11-2007, 01:23 AM   #99
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Re: Collins: How a scientist can believe in God

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Originally posted by coemgen

For me, that leap came in my 27th year, after a search to learn more about God's character led me to the person of Jesus Christ. Here was a person with remarkably strong historical evidence of his life, who made astounding statements about loving your neighbor, and whose claims about being God's son seemed to demand a decision about whether he was deluded or the real thing. After resisting for nearly two years, I found it impossible to go on living in such a state of uncertainty, and I became a follower of Jesus.
Very interesting story.

I find myself much in the same position. I have a lot of trouble saying definitively that God (in whatever form) exists, but at the same time I have even more trouble with the idea that God does NOT exist.

My issue with Christianity is not with Jesus, it's with God. To explain this would require a long post - if anyone would like to hear my reasoning, I'll write it out, but I'd rather save myself the time if nobody cares.
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Old 04-11-2007, 03:58 AM   #100
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Please, if you have the time.
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Old 04-11-2007, 04:10 AM   #101
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Quote:
Originally posted by dazzlingamy
in my experience, religious people are no more happier then the atheists. I do think religion fills a hole in which people don't like to look into, and perhaps gives a sense of community with your church and a warm feeling of giving through the church's charities - but non religious people get that too, through other groups and their own volunteering oppurtunities.

I think life is hard on earth, no matter where you think you end up, and perhaps in some cases is harder for religious people, because they need to continue to believe, to continue to trust in something when you are surrounded by so much shit and weird stuff that goes down.

Besides, i'm quite happy and content, and I don't believe at all. I just think they're more people out there like me, quite happy living life, and not worrying too much about what happens afterwards, therefore not needed to be soothed by the idea of heaven and eternal salvation.
I was talking to my buddy Grant at lunch today about this thread, in particularly to the issue that dazzlingamy raises above and that several other posters (Vincent Vega, I think, comes to mind) have hinted at.

I came away from our discussion wondering if happiness is really what faith is all about. I kind of think that maybe it isn't. Now our society, our culture is ALL about happiness. I'd suggest it's our culture highest aim, and as a result Christians (can't speak for other faiths) have perhaps bought into the same cultural value, and made happiness the end product of faith.

But I'm thinking that the value of faith, for those that have it at least, must have more to it then mere happiness. After all, some Christians aren't particularly happy people and Jesus seemed to hold a special place in his heart for "those who mourn." Likewise as has already been pointed there are plenty of atheists that are quite happy.

I'm still kind of sorting this all out in my mind, but right now I feel that my faith is at least partially about, not having "all my eggs in one basket" so to speak, that basket being the 50 odd years (or more providing for advances in science) I'm assuming I have left (though realistically I could be gone in the next 50 minutes, such is the fragility of life). It's about being able to achieve a certain contentedness in all circumstances--something the apostle Paul described having. So that if my life is going terribly then I know, there's something beyond this life, and if it's going well, then I can know that ultimately the good times will go on. It's that kind of being able to not hold on too tight to any one thing, I guess that I see as being something I can gain through faith, though I wouldn't say I'm there yet.

And that's beyond whether I'm happy per se, or not.
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Old 04-11-2007, 04:13 AM   #102
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Re: Re: Collins: How a scientist can believe in God

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Originally posted by DaveC


My issue with Christianity is not with Jesus, it's with God. To explain this would require a long post - if anyone would like to hear my reasoning, I'll write it out, but I'd rather save myself the time if nobody cares.
I'm interested, but I feel bad to make you write it all out if you don't want to.

But if you're up for it, I'd love to hear more.
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Old 04-11-2007, 04:20 AM   #103
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland

Maybe I'm just shallow, lol.
Since when have you ever been shallow? You're like the Marianas Trench in the ocean that is FYM!

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
The only thing that makes me tense about these types of discussions is the mutual tendency to project, if only by association, needs and desires and preoccupations that you don't in fact know are there onto whoever you're discussing with. Some of the theories people offer sometimes, 'why people believe' or 'why they don't but should' sound to me as if they must've come out of some bizarre alternate universe; I can't even begin to recognize myself in what they say, or figure out what on earth kind of worldview they're drawing this from, and I'm sure others must have had the same experience.
I've felt the same way. Often the way I hear faith, God etc described back to me. . .I'm thinking well, shoot I wouldn't believe in that kind of nonsense either. Knowing how frustrating it is to experience that, I try to not claim to "know" what those who do not share my faith are thinking or where they are coming from. I hope I succeed.
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Old 04-11-2007, 04:25 AM   #104
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To echo Dave C, but coming from a slightly different angle,

"My issue is not so much with Jesus but with Christianity."

I'm finding myself more and more skeptical about taking seriously a lot of what I see in religion (including and perhaps, especially, my own) as it's practiced.

I told my wife recently that I've found I don't want to be a "religious" person. Which is not to say at all that I want to give up my faith or even my involvement in my church.
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Old 04-11-2007, 11:49 AM   #105
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[q]Rabbi Gellman on Whether God Is Real
The debate about whether God is real misses the true nature of the question. Here’s why.

By Marc Gellman
Updated: 5:55 p.m. ET April 5, 2007
The recent theological disputation between Rick Warren and Sam Harris on whether God is real was wonderfully enlightening—but sadly was offered up without a verdict. Since I am both a professional religious guy and also have a doctorate in philosophy, I thought I might declare a winner in the spirit of the old Yiddish joke in which two disputants ask the rabbi to resolve their argument. After hearing the first man the rabbi says, "You are right." Then the second man protests and tells his side, after which the rabbi says, "You are right." The men go away puzzled and disappointed whereupon a third person complains to the rabbi, "They can't both be right." The rabbi looks at him and says, "You're right, too." So here is my verdict: Both Rick and Sam are right and wrong and if you think this is impossible ... you're right, too.

The problem with these debates is that they do not understand the nature of the question being asked. The French existentialist Gabriel Marcel in his book "The Mystery of Being" helpfully distinguished between two types of questions: problems and mysteries. Problems are questions about things outside of us that we lay siege to. When we answer them correctly they go away forever. Once chemists thought that a mysterious substance called phlogiston caused combustion. Then in the 1770s Antoine Lavoisier conclusively proved that oxygen causes combustion, and nobody thought about phlogiston again. This is because the question of what causes combustion is a problem, not a mystery.

Mysteries are not questions we constitute (those are problems). Mysteries are, according to Marcel, questions within which we ourselves are constituted. Mysteries are not problems that have not yet been answered. "What is the cure for cancer?" is an unanswered problem, not a mystery, but the question of whether God is real or whether goodness is rewarded or whether there is a purpose to human existence or why do fools fall in love or who put the bop in the bop sh-bop sh-bop—these are all mysteries and they will not go away and they will always be important and they will always define us by the way we answer them with our lives and our hopes.

So both Pastor Warren and atheist Harris have erroneously come to believe that the question of whether God is real is just some problem that can be answered—like how far is it from New York to Cleveland? God cannot be proved with evidence that is outside of us. Said another way, the mystery of God is resolved by the answer we give to it with our life. If a person believes that all human beings are made in the image of God and thus deserve respect, then God is real for that person as the source of his or her transcendent duty to treat all people with love and respect. If, on the other atheist hand, people are just one of many species ruled by the survival of the fittest, then God does not exist for that person and neither does any transcendent duty to treat others with dignity. In this dispute, Sam is not wrong, he is just on the side of those who do not believe in the sanctity of life. Why they believe that others ought to be treated with dignity is not clear to Rick, and it is not clear to me, but I would not make the invidious case that atheists cannot be moral. Nor would I say that Sam is wrong. We might well be alone in a chaotic meaningless cosmos. I stand with Rick in responding to the mystery of meaning in the universe by affirming that I am not alone and that when I look into even Sam's eyes I cannot help but believe that I am looking at the image of God. Sam's response to the mystery of meaning is to try to hold onto the absolute moral judgments born of Rick's and my faith while not allowing the God who both birthed and sustained that moral truth. This, plus Sam's personal desire for a kind of rational spirituality, as well as the massive empirical evidence of religious altruism—which he admits—versus the admittedly thin record of well known atheistic altruism all leads me to believe that Sam Harris may well understand deep down that ditching God is not remotely like ditching Zeus.

As for my evangelical friend Rick Warren, I continue to pray that his faith becomes not less strong but less exclusivist. Perhaps I am, in fact, saved by the atoning death of Jesus, and perhaps I need to say that in order to be saved. I don't believe so, but I do not feel degraded or belittled by Rick's belief that I need to do so. What I believe, the way I respond to the mystery of God as I have learned it through Judaism, is that God did not give all the truth to just one faith. What I believe is that, "The righteous of all nations have a share in the World to Come." This means that I expect to see Rick and Sam there, but instead of continuing their debate, I expect them to be laughing and saying to each other, "Why didn't we listen to Gellman?"

Happy Passover to my Jewish readers.
Happy Easter to Rick and all my Christian friends.
And to Sam Harris, happy springtime.[/q]
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