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Old 08-28-2007, 09:17 PM   #31
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Originally posted by nathan1977

But we all think that our starting point is the best....which is fundamentally arrogant, isn't it? Your starting point may be your starting point, which is fine for you, but that isn't the best starting point for someone else. Judging someone else's starting point seems to be a bit judgmental, and surprising for someone who is passionately against judgmentalism.

And even if your starting point were the best, a starting point is one thing -- a sticking point is quite another.


and i'd disagree here, if we're talking about understanding the blueprints of faith. if we were to talk about the experience of faith, then i'd be in agreement, and we could also agree that part of the experience of faith, as exemplified by MT, is doubt. and a believer's account of the experience f doubt would be a valuable one no question. but if we're going to understand faith as a belief system, as something that operates by a set of understandable and, ultimately, predictable rules, then i would argue that a position of dispassionate agnosticism is a more "honest" position because it's one of neutrality.

what i take from your posts is that the starting point is the indisputable existence of a Creator, and a Creator with a clear Christian standpoint. simple talk of a "relationship" with said Creator is a specific viewpoint coming from a specific cultural context, and is expressed in human terms (what's more human than a relationship?) and is called for by a specific text (the Bible). and i think that when regarding the experience of faith, i agree, a relationship, which is to say an emotional and intellectual interaction with articles of faith is an important part of the experience, in fact, that is much of the experience, i would guess. and this would stand in opposition to the fundamentalist automaton, the fundamentalist who has the single moment of active engagement and then spends the rest of the experience being the best student in class and being able to spit back the "best" answers to the questions with the appropriately cited Biblical verse. and i can think of a mutually respected former poster who, in my opinion, was a brilliant example of this. it didn't seem, to me, like a faith that was experienced, but that all experience was mediated through the rules of faith.

the other issue i have in regards to the "blueprint" analysis is the weight you give to the Bible. i doubt the very foundations of the text itself -- writings done decades after the assumed events -- as having any more authority than a history text. this has been bandied about in FYM before, and i remain suspicious on Bible-based faith. it just doesn't seem like a solid foundation upon which to begin a discussion of the operations of faith.

as for "bad things/good people" -- i suppose i'd understand this as a bit more universal than you. why did two happy-go-lucky teenaged girls die in a car accident when i was a sophomore in high school? why did Edge's daughter develop lukemia? why does a bridge collapse in Minnesota? why does a tsunami wipe out 250,000 people?

i suppose i find the random death of innocents at the hands of fate to be a "bad thing," and i think we can name innumerable "good people" who've had unexplainable things happen to them. i'm one of them, and i seem to be quite lucky as all's going well. which begs the question of why, if there's a god who loves us, and a God who wants a relationship with us, and a God who wants us to be good and to do good things, and a God who controls everything, that it's all in his hands, that it's all his doing, that it's all part of his plan, then why, oh why, do these things happen?

i'll paraphrase something that i remember Bono saying, but i believe it was an Old Testament story -- i've had two glasses of wine, so name escape me -- but it was (Abraham?) who was told by God to bring his son to a mountaintop and to kill him in order to demonstate his faith. and so, he did, and just before he killed his son, God intervened, said it was a test, and let them both go, and thus, this is the faith we should have.

and Bono's reaction, and my reaction, is: what a fucking asshole.

it doesn't matter if we understand God on his terms or not. what matters is that we have to understand life on its terms and deal with it using our very human faculties. and as supposed Creator of said faculties, it seems rather cruel.

this reminds me of an example that comes up in abortion threads. we're presented with various "would you have an abortion if ..." scenarios. one category is horrible, horrible birth defects. and one of the worst that i can think of is what's known as harlequin-type ichthyosis. it's a horrible disease, and while there are a handful of stories where children survive to hit double-digits, and even one "success" where the child has made it to adulthood, the vast, vast majority of victims of this disease live short, painful lives and then die.

and my very human response is that, yes, i would absolutely have an abortion to prevent my child from entering a world where all they will know is suffering. and if this is God's will, or God's plan, to have a baby born to only suffer and then die, so that all of his human experience is one of suffering, then the only moral thing i can do is to protect this child from what God, apparently, wants for it. it would seem to me that to accept what is might be the cruel thing to do, and that i should thwart the Will, the Plan, and protect my child from God, if we are to believe that God is the author of such birth defects.

this seems like a bad thing that has happened to a good person. and to take your earlier thought of "perhaps we're not as good as we think,' would this imply that i've done something so terrible so as to deserve a child who will suffer, and that my suffering will be through watching the child suffer?

again: what a fucking asshole.

and so it continues. all questions, just food for thought, just hypotheticals, and i'm not implying that this is representative if your particular experience of faith, but that it is representative of one particular blueprint of faith.


[q]But even perception is not all of reality[/q]


but, maybe it is. does it exist if we do not perceive it? if a tree falls in the forest ...
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:18 PM   #32
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Originally posted by coemgen

As far as why there's so much evil in the world, the Bible is pretty clear about it, actually. It's because we let sin into our lives, therefore tainting God's perfect creation.


so ... my accident happened because i'm gay?
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:21 PM   #33
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No.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:24 PM   #34
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then why did it happen if it was due to sin in the world?

(i'm of the opinion that bad shit just happens, and that's what i took from it -- no one is safe, even though we probably are going to be okay, and we are alone, and that's okay as well)
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:26 PM   #35
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Originally posted by coemgen
Also, I think he was more saddened by the tsunami than most of us were.
One might have thought then, unless he is some kind of masochist, that he would have stopped it.

Your spirit isn't very omnipotent is he?
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:30 PM   #36
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Omnipotent, yes. He also respects the law of free will, out of our own good, and has thrown us a lifeline through Christ and interacts with us through his spirit to save us from ourselves. We just have to chose to be saved. Again, he respects the law of free will.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:32 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
then why did it happen if it was due to sin in the world?

(i'm of the opinion that bad shit just happens, and that's what i took from it -- no one is safe, even though we probably are going to be okay, and we are alone, and that's okay as well)
I didn't mean every bad thing is a trade off for a sin. I was saying that bad things in general came to be because sin came into the world.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:36 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally posted by coemgen
Omnipotent, yes. He also respects the law of free will, out of our own good, and has thrown us a lifeline through Christ and interacts with us through his spirit to save us from ourselves. We just have to chose to be saved. Again, he respects the law of free will.
I fail to see what that any of that has to do the tsunami.

If your spirit (and I will be polite for the time being, and not refer to it as a figment of your imagination) is omnipotent, then it was within his power to stop the tsunami.

As he choose not to, 300,000 people died - I'd tend to call that a bad thing - and I'd tend to call an entity which had within its remit the power to stop 300,000 people dying, but decided not to, an evil entity.

Therefore, if your spirit exists, he is either not omnipotent, or not omnibenevolent.

It is logically impossible for a god as Christianity depicts him to exist (i.e., both omnipotent AND benevolent) - although, of course, that does not of itself prove the non-existence of ANY conceivable god or gods.
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Old 08-28-2007, 10:10 PM   #39
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First off, I certainly respect non-belief, so I'm not looking to change any minds here.

Nonetheless, I think the question of "why God lets bad things happen" or how an omnipotent and benevolent being that allows bad things to happen must be neither is tainted with "human" understandings of "perfection."

As I've said before here, I believe that the conventional human definition of "perfection" and the hypothetical definition of "true perfection" are very different.

For example, we know that the universe, Earth, and absolutely everything follows very defined scientific and mathematical laws--no exception. Now obviously, as advanced as we are, we don't know all of these laws, but what we know for sure is that what we're "discovering" is merely something that has been occurring for billions of years on it own and will occur for many trillions of years after us, the Earth, the solar system, the Sun, and even the Milky Way galaxy are long gone. As such, you could argue that science and mathematics, itself, is the defining definition of "perfection," inasmuch as it has allowed our planet to sustain complex lifeforms and has allowed us to exist.

As we all know too, those same scientific processes that have allowed Earth to be what it is today are not inherently benevolent either. We have tectonic processes that allow for destructive earthquakes and volcanism. We have weather patterns that allow for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, extreme heat and extreme cold. We have an ecosystem that thrives on the death of everything to survive, whether that be larger and/or smarter creatures eating smaller and/or dumber creatures. Likewise, we have tiny microbes that exist, whose "life" can mean our death (i.e., infectious agents, parasites). And all of this has meant that we have a whole number of things that can potentially kill a great number of people at any given moment....

...yet take away any one of these factors, and we would likely not be here at all. No tectonic processes? We'd be as dead as Mars. Extreme weather? Well, blame that on the Moon for putting us on an axis that creates extremes. However, it has been noted that cold weather, for instance, allowed for industrious cultures separate from agrarian society. As such, without the Moon that helps create weather extremes, modern Western civilization may never have been dreamed up; after all, what would have been the need for it?

But what about parasites and infectious agents? What could possibly make those things positive? Well, for one, they have been the driving force of the evolution of life. Without them, we would quite likely still be nothing more than single-celled organisms. It is called the "survival of the fittest" for a reason. And, okay, you could argue that human evolution has "ended" (although that's increasingly appearing to be wrong), so what's the purpose of it now? As awful and horrible as mass pandemics are, and, as a civilized society, we should be doing everything in our power and technology to prevent and/or stop them, the wealth of modern Europe, and, by extension, Western civilization would not have existed without the Black Death. Europe was overpopulated, with land being poorly managed and little room for agriculture before the Black Death. Although the disease plunged Europe into virtual chaos for well over a century, after the disease had subsided, Europe was then able to use large tracts of vacated land for better agricultural practices and economic opportunities, setting the stage for European prosperity. As we can see in some parts of our world today, overpopulation can be a huge problem.

So ask yourselves: why would a theoretically "omnipotent and benevolent" deity allow bad things to happen? Because the alternatives are worse. "Perfection" is not having everything that you want; it's accepting that everything is as it is supposed to be.
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Old 08-28-2007, 10:21 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally posted by coemgen
I didn't mean every bad thing is a trade off for a sin. I was saying that bad things in general came to be because sin came into the world.
This ends up being a good extension to my argument of "human perfection" versus "true perfection." The original Greek and Hebrew words that we translate to be "sin" literally meant "imperfection."

Again, though, I ask how much of these "imperfections" are flawed human expectations of getting everything that they want as meaning "perfection." If we are to state that "free will" is, like science and mathematics, inherently "perfect," then to have a hypothetical world where people are flat out incapable of bending or breaking the rules means that we do not have "free will."

Alright, you might be asking yourself what's the point of "free will" if we're allowed to do "bad things" to each other? Call that an unfortunate price to pay for progress. If we merely sat down and did what we were told, unquestioningly, by our leaders, then we would still probably be living in primitive tribal societies that would be most certainly totalitarian in nature.

In other words, our capability for both "greatness" and "badness" is tied to a similar trait: passion. Without passion, and, thus, competition, we would not be what we are, as a civilization. Granted, there are downright terrible and despicable things that people do to each other...but to change the laws of nature to make us incapable of "disobedience" thus eliminates free will, and we're back to an unquestioning tribal society. As such, it becomes an issue of "the cure" being far worse than "the disease" itself.
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Old 08-28-2007, 11:00 PM   #41
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Originally posted by melon
First off, I certainly respect non-belief, so I'm not looking to change any minds here.

Nonetheless, I think the question of "why God lets bad things happen" or how an omnipotent and benevolent being that allows bad things to happen must be neither is tainted with "human" understandings of "perfection."

As I've said before here, I believe that the conventional human definition of "perfection" and the hypothetical definition of "true perfection" are very different.


i take the points, and tend to agree with you, but this seems to go against notions that are often espoused of "God's Plan" -- which strikes me as a human invention, and it also doesn't explain why many faith experiences, which are so predicated upon creating a personal relationship with God, of seeking God's help in all things, in seeking God's reasoning in all things, in seeking God's help through difficult times, in praising God when things go well, really don't have a way to grapple with mass tragedy.

i know why tsunamis happen. i know why earthquakes happen. what i don't know is why the God that many people of faith priase so regularly for so many things allows such terrible things to happen when, according to this faith system, he's fully capable of stopping them.

why do people praise God when they managed to miss the flight that crashed, but not blame him for the 200 people that died?

it just seems to me that these attitudes, these non-doubting attitudes, these attitudes that tell us to praise God even when terrible things happen for it is all His will and who are we to understand, are products of a highly privileged Western society where bad things really don't tend to happen and tragedy is little more than anthropology and something from which to draw a bit of fortune cookie anecdotal wisdom.
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Old 08-28-2007, 11:08 PM   #42
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I personally believe in a God who doesn't intervene.
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Old 08-28-2007, 11:24 PM   #43
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why do people praise God when they managed to miss the flight that crashed, but not blame him for the 200 people that died?
Because that's what people do, I guess. People give credit and blame to God for all sorts of things. As for how much God has to do with any of it? Who knows, but it's human nature.

If I didn't make this clear before, let me say it here. If "God" was capable of creating scientific and mathematical laws of such immense detail and complexity, He's probably capable of intervening if He chooses. Yet, I've outlined why such "intervention," while conforming to human expectations of "perfection," would be less desirable than we'd imagine.

In terms of our daily lives, I'm not sure how much of it involves "intervention" of any kind. Most of what we do are the result of "stimuli" of some kind. And thousands of years of "collective stimuli," being the result of free actions of mankind, we have the society that we have today. That plane that crashed? It's the price we pay for having built the plane; we know every time that we fly that x% will crash and people will die. Yet, we fly with the knowledge that the benefits outweigh the risks. I'm not sure where "God" is present in any of this, directly. It merely is what it is.

As for how much of life, in general, really involves God's intervention and how much involves "folk wisdom"? I'm not here to answer that question, because no answer to that question is really based on anything conclusive. My point is to say that "God" can be all-powerful and knowing--and still let what we consider to be "bad things" happen. But, as I have explained, what we consider to be "bad things" might not be so "bad" in the greater scheme of things, which is why God would theoretically not intervene at all.
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Old 08-28-2007, 11:45 PM   #44
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at the outset, let me say that i agree that God doesn't much factor into plane crashes. but that's my opinion, and others can and do disagree.

i guess i'm still concerned when we talk about suffering in aggregate -- i can't think of a more individualized experience than suffering, yet we tend to view mass suffering, be it tsunami or holocaust, as part of a greater learning experience for us all. and while i'd agree that there is much to be learned from *why* humans suffer, the experience itself is often brushed to the side and ignored because it's simply too unpleasant to actually deal with. and when viewed on a micro level, it seems incredibly cruel to view one indivdual's suffering as part of a larger process. others suffer so that i might make observations of human advancement towards perfection?

let me take something that i've talked about in the past -- this accident that occured when i was a sophomore in high school. to be graphic, since i think we have to be graphic if we're going to genuinely talk about human suffering, two girls were killed. one was decapitated, the other had her arms ripped off and bled to death in the street. are we really to imagine a God who is, in effect, standing over a dying 15 year old girl and saying, in effect, "i know this hurts and you're never going to grow up and graduate and get married and have kids and go to China, but trust me, it's all part of a process, lots of kids in your class are going to be more cautious drivers from now on, so i know it's a bummer, and i suppose i could have given you a quick 24-hour flu so you would have been too ill to go to the movies with your firends, but it will be over soon, and trust me, it's all totally worth it. and don't worry, i'll tell your mother that her only child is dead because i want it that way."

when all human beings have is their own experience, their own flesh and blood, the intense precariousness of that flesh and blood, their own limited capabilities of understanding, why torture them with this?
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Old 08-29-2007, 12:10 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
at the outset, let me say that i agree that God doesn't much factor into plane crashes. but that's my opinion, and others can and do disagree.

i guess i'm still concerned when we talk about suffering in aggregate -- i can't think of a more individualized experience than suffering, yet we tend to view mass suffering, be it tsunami or holocaust, as part of a greater learning experience for us all. and while i'd agree that there is much to be learned from *why* humans suffer, the experience itself is often brushed to the side and ignored because it's simply too unpleasant to actually deal with. and when viewed on a micro level, it seems incredibly cruel to view one indivdual's suffering as part of a larger process. others suffer so that i might make observations of human advancement towards perfection?

let me take something that i've talked about in the past -- this accident that occured when i was a sophomore in high school. to be graphic, since i think we have to be graphic if we're going to genuinely talk about human suffering, two girls were killed. one was decapitated, the other had her arms ripped off and bled to death in the street. are we really to imagine a God who is, in effect, standing over a dying 15 year old girl and saying, in effect, "i know this hurts and you're never going to grow up and graduate and get married and have kids and go to China, but trust me, it's all part of a process, lots of kids in your class are going to be more cautious drivers from now on, so i know it's a bummer, and i suppose i could have given you a quick 24-hour flu so you would have been too ill to go to the movies with your firends, but it will be over soon, and trust me, it's all totally worth it. and don't worry, i'll tell your mother that her only child is dead because i want it that way."

when all human beings have is their own experience, their own flesh and blood, the intense precariousness of that flesh and blood, their own limited capabilities of understanding, why torture them with this?
It's not about "human advancement towards perfection," because we, inherently, have nothing "to advance to." The "perfection" is not in the goal, but in the laws and rules that allow us to reach that arbitrary goal.

Let's look at a black hole, for instance. As far as we're concerned in our daily lives, this is as useless as it gets. We know it exists, we can observe some vague properties of it, but as to "why" it exists? Who the fuck knows, and the fact that no "information" can ever escape a black hole, we will forever be forced to conjecture. So would I say that a black hole, in itself, is "perfect"? No, but the processes that allow black holes to exist are "perfect" in that they are bound to the same scientific laws that permit everything else, including ourselves, to exist.

So, using those graphic situations as the example here, are they awful? Yes, no question. Did God stand up there and directly order this to happen? No. Did God create everything that allowed humanity to create these situations? Yes. God created us with the free will and high intelligence, so that we could create the cars that allowed those girls to, most unfortunately, die. But everyday that we drive, we know that x% of cars each day crash, and people are maimed and killed; we drive anyway, because, again, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Think of it this way. If all creation was like this website, God would have created HTML, PHP, MySQL programming languages to create this website. And those languages, for purposes of this example, would be "perfect" in that they allow us to create whatever we can possibly imagine within the built-in constraints of computer hardware (laws of nature; i.e., you can use programming languages to create whatever you want to work in your computer, just like you can create what you want, as long as they stay true to the laws of science and mathematics). So if God "created" the programming languages of life, humans did all the programming, and we're responsible for all of our grand successes and huge failures collectively. Certainly, with the "programming languages" that "God gave us," you're going to have some people creating "computer viruses" or "e-mail spam," but you don't blame the language; you blame the human manipulating the code.

Does this make sense at all?

(If I had to guess, probably not, but, at least I can say that I've probably written the geekiest thing that I've ever written right here and now. )
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