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Old 11-23-2006, 12:56 AM   #46
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Originally posted by AussieU2fanman
I predict a gigantic surge in athiesm or any other non-thiestic system in the next 100-200 years (in all parts of the world as globalisation takes hold where the east will slowly merge with the west). I tentatively deem this a good thing for morality and world peace.
The Soviet Union demonstrated that fanaticism and prejudice need not have an official religion. China's record on minority tolerance is behind that of the West, as well.

A little less fundamentalism on both ends of the spectrum would do quite a lot to advance the cause of morality and world peace.
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Old 11-23-2006, 06:35 AM   #47
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Everybody should watch 'The root of all Evil,' which somebody here recommended. Apparantly, 45% of Americans believe that the world is only 10,000 years old! Despite living in this era of scientific exploration, 45% of Americans believe in the creationism dogma, as opposed to the overwhelming evidence saying that the world is clearly over x billion years old. Does anyone here think like this even when faced with irrefutable evidence contradicting it?
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Old 11-23-2006, 07:01 AM   #48
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Old 11-23-2006, 08:38 AM   #49
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maycocksean thank you for starting this thread. In light of the great high jacking extravagance it is a great joy to read a nuanced and well-argued debate. I find myself in agreement with many of your points although A_wanderer’s distinction between science and religion is closer to how I personally deal with religious questions in my line of work. A point I found particularly relevant was your emphasis on personal experience in the development of faith or lack of same. In my experience it is not common to find such openness in a person of faith (and by that I mean no offence to the people of faith on this board. It is merely an effect of my less than stellar experiences with religion – see below).

I don’t like Richard Dawkins, and I like Francis Collins even less. Dawkins make valid points on occasion but he often takes his conclusions several steps too far. Yes, religion can be viewed a virus infection the young and impressionable but in the majority of those who suffer from this unfortunate affliction seem too muddle through somehow – and even to find solace in the delusions caused by the virus (well, I’m running with his imagery here). I’d like to say something equally ambivalent about Collins at this point but I can’t think of anything sufficiently positive.

You used a Christian example of how religion and science are not mutually exclusive. I’d like to offer a non-Judeo-Christian example. In the tradition I was raised in there is no Creator. The world simply is. We can see and observe it. Good, evil, mankind, Gods and all the rest came later. There is no personal God. Man was not created by the Gods. Evil was not expelled from the realm of the Gods (I should mention that I don’t actually believe that the Gods are real and concrete – rather that they are symbols of different aspects of life). So evolution and Big Bang really don’t baffle me nor does the absence of a soul in the Christian meaning of the word.

Anyway, I’ve had a bad couple of months so bear with me if I accidentally verbally behead someone in this thread. I don’t actually mean to. First my brother died in a both unexpected and very predictable manner which some of the Christian members of my mothers family took as an opportunity to remind the rest of us of our sinful ways. Then a group of particularly amusing and gifted individuals started sending these incredibly life affirming notes to our lab depicting what looked like late term aborted foetuses with hilarious captions such as (paraphrasing) ‘The slaughtered children will judge you on the day of reckoning. God knows you’. Oh joy (and also wtf? We have nothing to do with that). One of the first ones ended on my desk and I can honestly say that I do not enjoy starting my day by hurling in the rubbish bin. So you can probably understand why I’m not too keen on religion right now.
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Old 11-23-2006, 10:07 AM   #50
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Originally posted by maycocksean


With all due respect, you're speaking from your own perspective as an atheist and projecting what YOU think it must be that believers give thanks for. What you're describing really has no relation to the actual experience of a believer like me or many others. Remember this past summer when that one Christian hijacked the atheist thread and kept insisting that all atheists MUST be depressed and hopeless and completely without meaning in life and no matter how much the atheists on the forum insisted they DID NOT feel this way, he wouldn't give it up. This is kind of the same thing. You can't take your own perspective on what belief is, apply it to believers, and insist we view things in that manner.

To be frank, I don't know that I really "thank God for creation" all that often. I thank God for another day of life, because I believe life is a gift and every day is a privelage.

My aunt died of cancer, so I haven't given thanks for "curing cancer" either.

I. . .and other believers. . .give thanks for many things everyday but they are not generally along the lines, "Oh thank you for carrying the magical sun into the sky and holding it there all day." Those prayers might have been prayed millenia ago, and certainly wouldn't be prayed today but that in no way negates all or even most thanks and praise to God for the believer.
Yes perhaps the individuals experience of God's workings in his/her life will differ from the examples I gave of curing cancer and creation, but my point should be transparent enough. God's role will be reduced to virtually nil as our scientific understanding is further refined (excluding all the people who refuse to believe in science as it contradicts whatever has been indoctrinated into them from birth, eg. those who believe even today that the world is 10,000 years old!)

Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean


I've actually wondered if this might happen too. Of course neither you or I will be around to find out (barring some miracle of modern science--pun intended.

Actually after watching the documentary by Richard Dawkins and understanding how various fundamentalists and in particular evangelicals treat scientific enlightenment, it seems I'll have to rethink my hypothesis! The most overwhelming scientific evidence will not sway the instransigent believer. So even if (hypothetically)science progresses to a point where ultimately everything we have a question for, has an answer to, it will be meaningless on the understanding of the universe from many religious peoples, they will ignore it as it isn't in sync with their beliefs.

So i'll replace my prediction of a surge in athiesm in the next 100-200 years. Instead, in the future predict the same number of religious types/athiests ratio but everybody has a higher megapixel count on their mobile phones.

Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean


I don't see much indication that atheism per se is a pancea that will solve all the world's ills. (I don't necessarily see religion as that pancea either. . . )

People are--and always will be--human. It's not religion that makes them do crappy, selfish things.
Religion can make Good people do bad things, as exemplified in Dawkins documentary.
As far as morality in an athiests sense is concerned, and how athiesm will provide a stronger morally fibered society. I believe our altruistic evolution will suffice in this inherently morally complex society. This delves into the field of evolutionary psychology which I know nothing about as a mechanical engineering student lol. But as an athiest with no affiliation with a God, I feel that 'my' and 'our' 'altruistic morality' has evolved to
a point where it will only lead to a prosperity. We need to love and care for one another to secure the future for our speicies which is the notion behind altruism from what I understand. As a humanist that recognises our altruistic nature, a result of this is that I don't hate anyone, I don't discriminate by religion or anything else, all I want to do is secure the future prosperity of my species and we can derive morality from these underlying factors. And if everybody felt the way I do and had no connection to any God, I think society would have a lot to look forward to, sadly this is most definately not the case.
I hope this makes some sort of sense, it's very late and I'm tired (Thank God (yeah whateva!) we can always use this excuse when we make potentially stupid posts, as a sort of disclaimer at the bottom lol.)
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Old 11-23-2006, 10:21 AM   #51
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As far as personal experience with God is concerned, could some of you please ellaborate on your experiences with God, and how you classify them as unequivocally divine intervention? I would like to know how these would differ from my experiences when I was a fundamentalist Christian when I was younger.
For instance, I would be able to hear God's voice respond to my prayers during prayer time which I eventually deemed a self fulfilling prophecy (this is just one of many instances of my experiences of God). Are you sure your experiences are not just self fulfilling prophecies as well? If you believe hard enough, you'll hear and see him everywhere like what happened with me.
Also, if you have had a REAL personal experience with God, does that mean everybody else from any other religion can't because their God obviously doesn't exist? Because I'm certain you'll find people from other religious backgrounds claiming the same thing.
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Old 11-23-2006, 12:30 PM   #52
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Hi silja, good to see you back!

I'm very sorry to hear about your brother.
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Old 11-23-2006, 12:44 PM   #53
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Thank you yolland and may I say that one of the things I've missed the most is your insightful posts
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Old 11-23-2006, 12:48 PM   #54
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Quote:
Originally posted by AussieU2fanman
Everybody should watch 'The root of all Evil,' which somebody here recommended. Apparantly, 45% of Americans believe that the world is only 10,000 years old! Despite living in this era of scientific exploration, 45% of Americans believe in the creationism dogma, as opposed to the overwhelming evidence saying that the world is clearly over x billion years old. Does anyone here think like this even when faced with irrefutable evidence contradicting it?
Like I said, less fundamentalism would go a long way.
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Old 11-23-2006, 01:24 PM   #55
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I don't think the answer is less fundamentalism (although that would be a good thing) but rather that the everyday-walk-of-life people of all faiths would stand up against fundamentalism, fanatism and dogmatism in all its forms. Apathy in the face of great evil is a greater threat that evil itself in my limited experience.
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Old 11-23-2006, 07:35 PM   #56
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Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer

There is no need to introduce the idea of God and when people spout sentimental about love they should just use that word rather than mix up words.
Well said.
This applies to many things. Perhaps it is calling a spade a spade, but perhaps it is just all there is. Just being all there is is enough.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:51 AM   #57
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Quote:
Originally posted by AussieU2fanman


Yes perhaps the individuals experience of God's workings in his/her life will differ from the examples I gave of curing cancer and creation, but my point should be transparent enough. God's role will be reduced to virtually nil as our scientific understanding is further refined (excluding all the people who refuse to believe in science as it contradicts whatever has been indoctrinated into them from birth, eg. those who believe even today that the world is 10,000 years old!)
Since you have a Christian background, perhaps you could explain how God's role was reduced as your scientific knowledge grew? Most of what I believe about God's role in my life is unscientific in nature and can't really be "proved" or "disproved" by the scientific method. For me stuff like the age of the earth or how Creation happened is not the most crucial thing and I'm not sure how scientific evidence on these issues would cause me to give up my faith. Re-evaluate my understanding what I thought the Bible taught, yes but compeletely lose faith in God? I think it would take more than that. Not all Christian's have their faith married to one particular idea of origins (as evidenced by Francis Collins who is himself an evolutionist AND a Christian).




Quote:
Originally posted by AussieU2fanman
Instead, in the future predict the same number of religious types/athiests ratio but everybody has a higher megapixel count on their mobile phones.
On this we definitely agree!


Quote:
Originally posted by AussieU2fanman
Religion can make Good people do bad things, as exemplified in Dawkins documentary.
So can romantic love. And passionate political ideology. And fear.

Lot's of things can cause good people to do bad things. That doesn't make the motivating agent inherently bad. For the record, let me state that I believe that belief and/or religion is neither inherently good or inherently bad. It's neutral, with the potential for great harm and the potential for great good. Belief itself is neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned. It's what you do with that belief that matters.

Quote:
Originally posted by AussieU2fanman
As far as morality in an athiests sense is concerned, and how athiesm will provide a stronger morally fibered society. I believe our altruistic evolution will suffice in this inherently morally complex society. This delves into the field of evolutionary psychology which I know nothing about as a mechanical engineering student lol. But as an athiest with no affiliation with a God, I feel that 'my' and 'our' 'altruistic morality' has evolved to
a point where it will only lead to a prosperity. We need to love and care for one another to secure the future for our speicies which is the notion behind altruism from what I understand. As a humanist that recognises our altruistic nature, a result of this is that I don't hate anyone, I don't discriminate by religion or anything else, all I want to do is secure the future prosperity of my species and we can derive morality from these underlying factors.
I think you probably have a more optimistic view of human nature than I do. For me part of what "works" for me about my faith is not so much how it churns out "perfect people" but how it squarely addresses what I see as human propensity for failing to live up to our ideals. I believe people are deeply, perhaps fatally flawed (this is the big reason I don't buy into "conspiracies theories." There'll always be someone to bungle up the works and flawless conspiracies can only work in the movies, not real life).

Often you'll hear people talk about how people are motivated to do "evil" by ignorance, fear, etc and if only people could be more enlightened and what not "evil" would disappear. I think that view doesn't quite work in the real world. Take slavery. A friend of mine, who was once a Christian and is now as far as I can tell is a sort of "spiritual agnostic", and I were talking about what prompted racial prejudice against blacks in America (we're both black so this is a pertinent issue for us both). She was arguing that it was just ignorance and a lack of education. I suggested the ignorance was willful. It was a way of sleeping at night. The slave owners and slave traders wanted to make money and there was money to be made in the slave trade. But how can one live with enslaving another man this way? Simple. By telling yourself that the other man isn't really a man at all, that he's subhuman. And if one can find a "Biblical" justification, even better, because then you can not only sleep at night but attend church Sunday morning and feel fine. Willful ignorance that enable the slave owner to sleep at night was the root of much of the racial prejudice in America. Here were people CHOOSING to harm others so they could make a buck. It's because of things like this that I'm less optimistic about mankinds ability to remake himself outside of some sort of supernatural intervention.

One thing I bet you and I agree on (though probably from different perspectives) is that the human capacity for self-deception is amazing.

Quote:
Originally posted by AussieU2fanman
I hope this makes some sort of sense, it's very late and I'm tired (Thank God (yeah whateva!) we can always use this excuse when we make potentially stupid posts, as a sort of disclaimer at the bottom lol.)
Don't worry. You made sense!
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:25 AM   #58
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As far as personal experience with God is concerned, could some of you please ellaborate on your experiences with God, and how you classify them as unequivocally divine intervention? I would like to know how these would differ from my experiences when I was a fundamentalist Christian when I was younger.
For instance, I would be able to hear God's voice respond to my prayers during prayer time which I eventually deemed a self fulfilling prophecy (this is just one of many instances of my experiences of God). Are you sure your experiences are not just self fulfilling prophecies as well? If you believe hard enough, you'll hear and see him everywhere like what happened with me.
You ask a lot of good questions here.

My experiences with God would likely sound very uncompelling to you. I think it's important to note that at least for me, (and I suspect many other Christians though certainly not all), the experiences I've had could not be considered "unequivocally divine" by anyone other than me. (Which is very exasperating to the scientist, I understand that). A lot of what has happened to me you might consider me making up my own mind and crediting it to God (i.e. my decisions to come to Saipan as a missionary) or chance (a friend of mine and I got severely lost in the jungles of our island this past Friday for about seven hours. I feel that God kept us safe from serious harm and helped us find our way out. You would probably say I was probably just lucky). God is not as "real" to me as the "voices in the head" of my brother who is a schizophrenic (and an atheist! I'm kinda glad he is too, because I don't have to worry about one of those "voices" ever being "God"). It's not as undeniable as the presence of my wife in my arms. I think most believers would be lying if they couldn't admitt that they haven't sometimes wondered "Is God really even there?" And I imagine for many atheists that would be enough for them to say, "Well, obviously it's a lot of hooey. God should be a little more "real" than THAT." But it's been enough, more than enough really for me. (One of the things I learn from my reading of the Bible is that people don't necessarily respond "better" to God when He's "more real." You know, more audible, more visible etc. God revealed would be a very overwhelming presence and I don't think God wants to overwhelm us.) I've never, ever "heard God's voice respond to me" during my prayers as you've described happening to you. More often, it's just more of a "sense" of God's answer, a sense of peace about a decision or looking back and saying, "Wow that really was the right decision." And what about the times when I look back and say, "Wow, that was the wrong decision?" Well, at least so far anyway, that's always happened when I've ignored that "sense" of what God was telling me and did what seemed to me like a better idea at the time.

I don't claim to have all the answers, and I'll always concede that it is at least POSSIBLE that "it's all in my mind" but nothing I've seen, heard, or experienced in my life at this point has been compelling enough for me to abandon my faith compeletly. Have I doubted? Absolutely. But over my life time I've come to sense God's presence and leading in my life. It's standard, it's consistent, most times--though not always--I recognize Him.

I know that all of this may sound VERY unsatisfactory to the unbeliver but it's quite satisfactory to me. And that's saying a lot because I don't "believe very hard." I'm a pretty skeptical fellow by nature.

What would be really interesting would be to hear from someone like AEON who WAS an atheist but is now a believer. I imagine you'd want to know what on earth convinces a person that God is real coming from a point of view of atheism.

Quote:
Originally posted by AussieU2fanman
Also, if you have had a REAL personal experience with God, does that mean everybody else from any other religion can't because their God obviously doesn't exist?
I don't see how my personal experience with God means that no one else with differing beliefs can't have an equally valid supernatural experience also. Christianity is unique, I think, in it's emphasis on a "personal God" so it seems unlikely that say, a Buddhist (who technically don't believe in God at all) would have an experience similar to mine in their tradition. I do believe in lots of different possible supernatural events/interactions so in that sense I don't think my belief system is the only one that is "valid." I do believe that my belief system is the "True" one but that's not the same as saying that that all the others are "hoaxes" in that there is no spiritual reality behind them.
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:30 AM   #59
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Silja, I'm very sorry for your loss.

I do understand why you're not keen on religion right now. I don't suppose I would be either.

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Old 11-30-2006, 07:02 AM   #60
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Per A_ Wanderer's recommendation, I read Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World and enjoyed it very much.

At those hours between 1 am and 4 am (times approximate), I confess I am subject to being receptive to the strangest notions (I can believe in crop circles and reincarnation and demons and ghosts) that are never even in my consideration during my daylight, rational hours (which is also why I don't do any online shopping during those hours, lol). But I don't censor those thoughts. Nor do I question them then because I know I won't believe them the other 21 hours a day and because there is a certain pleasure in being in touch with my primitive and superstitious side and my dark side. It's the perfect time for fantasies and the irrational and a nice break from the rationality of the other hours. It's play time.
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