Religion

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zenten
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Re: Religion

Postby zenten » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:05 pm UTC

mosc: Thanks, and sorry I didn't remember that conversation until now.

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Re: Religion

Postby Robin S » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:19 pm UTC

mosc wrote:
zenten wrote:How does the non-jew approach God in Judaism?

The same exact way a Jew does. There are 613 commandments in the Torah (old testament) and doing any is considered a mitzvahs (a good deed). Doing Mitzvahs brings one closer to god. Basically, do good things and you'll be acting more like god. The Jew would be educated as to which deeds are considered good or not, that would be the only difference. Honestly though, most are vague anyway so whatever you define as "good deed" could be substituted in for "mitzvah" pretty directly. Another small difference is that jewish ritual (like observing the sabbath or studying the Torah) is considered one of these good deeds as well so I guess the non-Jew wouldn't do that.
I would add that the Noahide laws are all that Judaism requires gentiles to follow. They are as follows (quoted directly from the Wikipedia entry):

Prohibition of Idolatry: - There is only one God. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
Prohibition of Murder: - You shall not murder.
Prohibition of Theft: - You shall not steal.
Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity: - You shall not commit adultery.
Prohibition of Blasphemy: - Revere God and do not blaspheme.
Prohibition of Cruelty to Animals: - Do not eat the flesh of an animal while it is still alive.
Requirement to have just Laws: - You shall set up an effective government to police the preceding six laws.

The remainder of the commandments are intended for Israel (the people, not the country) to honour God and to be "a light unto the nations".

eiaboca, I agree broadly with what you are saying, though personally I find the thought comforting that my consciousness will not be eternal. That is an unconscious adaption I have made to a worldview which lacks positive belief in an afterlife.
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Re: Religion

Postby zenten » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:22 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:
mosc wrote:
zenten wrote:How does the non-jew approach God in Judaism?

The same exact way a Jew does. There are 613 commandments in the Torah (old testament) and doing any is considered a mitzvahs (a good deed). Doing Mitzvahs brings one closer to god. Basically, do good things and you'll be acting more like god. The Jew would be educated as to which deeds are considered good or not, that would be the only difference. Honestly though, most are vague anyway so whatever you define as "good deed" could be substituted in for "mitzvah" pretty directly. Another small difference is that jewish ritual (like observing the sabbath or studying the Torah) is considered one of these good deeds as well so I guess the non-Jew wouldn't do that.
I would add that the Noahide laws are all that Judaism requires gentiles to follow. They are as follows (quoted directly from the Wikipedia entry):

Prohibition of Idolatry: - There is only one God. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
Prohibition of Murder: - You shall not murder.
Prohibition of Theft: - You shall not steal.
Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity: - You shall not commit adultery.
Prohibition of Blasphemy: - Revere God and do not blaspheme.
Prohibition of Cruelty to Animals: - Do not eat the flesh of an animal while it is still alive.
Requirement to have just Laws: - You shall set up an effective government to police the preceding six laws.

The remainder of the commandments are intended for Israel (the people, not the country) to honour God and to be "a light unto the nations".

eiaboca, I agree broadly with what you are saying, though personally I find the thought comforting that my consciousness will not be eternal. That is an unconscious adaption I have made to a worldview which lacks positive belief in an afterlife.


Ooops, only 3 out of 7 for me.

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Re: Religion

Postby miraidesuka » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:30 pm UTC

mosc wrote:
miraidesuka wrote:mosc, if I told you that there was a teapot in orbit around the sun between Earth and Mars, and it could not be observed through any physical means, but that it was imperative to your moral and spiritual well-being to believe in this teapot, would you believe me? would you believe in the teapot? If your answer is yes to either of those, I've got a beautiful bridge to sell you.

Yay teapots. Teapots are man made. They also have a finite mass. They are also bound by the laws of physics. A teapot orbiting a distant planet is improbable not due to the philosophy involved but the science involved. God has no mass and is not bound by the laws of physics so I fail to see much similarity at all other than you trying to say "do you believe in something you can't prove?" and my answer is "yes and no". Yes I believe in things I can't prove. No I do not believe in anything specific I can't prove. In general, I believe my perception is very limited and there are many things outside of it. Specifically, if I can define something concretely, I can then use science to prove or disprove it so if is concretely defined, it is bound by science. Something that is by definition out of my perception is impossible to define and thus impossible to prove or disprove. How could I perceive the proof of something I cannot perceive?


First of all, the cheap shot (and unless I'm totally wrong about physics) no mass = non existant.

This doesn't sound like a refutation either. You clearly do believe in some specific thing you can't prove (i.e. god), so your 'yes and no' answer doesn't work.
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Re: Religion

Postby mosc » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:30 pm UTC

As a re-constructionist Jew, I think the Noahide Laws are bullshit. Unless you're talking to an orthodox Jew, they mostly don't apply.

miraidesuka wrote:First of all, the cheap shot (and unless I'm totally wrong about physics) no mass = non existant.
Apparently you don't believe in photons either? *sigh* If you want to criticize my science, you might want to bring more than a high school understanding of physics to the table. I am a well educated nerd my friend.
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Re: Religion

Postby Robin S » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:33 pm UTC

Depending on what counts as blasphemy, I follow either five or six of the laws, the other lacking one being the seventh, which I do not particularly hold myself responsible for. The laws were written to apply to nations, and the chances of my successfully setting up a government which enforced all of the laws even if I tried are so remote that, as far as I am concerned, they can be neglected. I'd say I probably follow five of the laws - I've used the idea of God in a sufficiently casual or joking way that some people would take offence. The first law does not dictate belief but rather religious practice, so I do not cross it. The closest I have ever made to anything which could be construed as an idol was a clay figurine of a human; as far as I am aware, objects viewed as idols in Israel were exclusively of the molten variety.

mosc: You think the Noahide laws are bullshit, but not the mitzvot? I don't think I've heard that viewpoint presented before.
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Re: Religion

Postby zar » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:40 pm UTC

mosc wrote:
miraidesuka wrote:First of all, the cheap shot (and unless I'm totally wrong about physics) no mass = non existant.
Apparently you don't believe in photons either? *sigh* If you want to criticize my science, you might want to bring more than a high school understanding of physics to the table. I am a well educated nerd my friend.

Even if you can distance yourself from the teapot example (which is debatable, but OK) you still leave yourself open to an infinite number of other things that can be defined so as to be unprovable and not falsifiable, just like your idea of god. (Like the FSM which you seem to have a great dislike for.)

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Re: Religion

Postby miraidesuka » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:41 pm UTC

mosc wrote:As a re-constructionist Jew, I think the Noahide Laws are bullshit. Unless you're talking to an orthodox Jew, they mostly don't apply.

miraidesuka wrote:First of all, the cheap shot (and unless I'm totally wrong about physics) no mass = non existant.
Apparently you don't believe in photons either? *sigh* If you want to criticize my science, you might want to bring more than a high school understanding of physics to the table. I am a well educated nerd my friend.


I admit you got me there. I studied biology and philosophy, not physics, so my expertise in that area is lacking. All the same, there's still a falsifiable test for the presence of photons, isn't there? Show me a falsifiable test for God and I'll believe you.

I still have this bridge here, and you still havn't answered my teapot question. Your 'yes and no' answer doesn't work by your own admission.
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Re: Religion

Postby mosc » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:46 pm UTC

You see Nath? The Vehement almost evangelical zeal in which a "believer" is attacked? Let me break it down this way to you miraidesuka/zar: You win. I'm an idiot who believes in imaginary beings with the IQ of a peanut living in a naive world which you have totally disproven and shattered with your witty comments. There, can we move on now?

If you want to "win", go argue with somebody else. I have no desire to convince you or dodge the bullets you want to shoot at me endlessly until I fall over so fine! You hit me, I concede.
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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:51 pm UTC

miraidesuka wrote:You see Nath? The Vehement almost evangelical zeal in which a "believer" is attacked?


Mosc, you started your portion of the discussion by saying, and I'm paraphrasing, "Don't try to talk about religion here, dude, they're all crazy! They won't even accept (X proposition)!"

And, incensed by the tone with which you said it, and the implicit assumption that (X proposition) was something totally rational that everyone *should* be able to accept, people pointed out that "Well, no, (X proposition) doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It has some serious problems with it. I don't think it makes us crazy or zealous if we don't accept it."

I don't see that as a particularly zealous or offensive response, despite the somewhat offensive thing they're responding to.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:00 pm UTC

mosc wrote:God has no mass and is not bound by the laws of physics so I fail to see much similarity at all other than you trying to say "do you believe in something you can't prove?" and my answer is "yes and no". Yes I believe in things I can't prove. No I do not believe in anything specific I can't prove. In general, I believe my perception is very limited and there are many things outside of it. Specifically, if I can define something concretely, I can then use science to prove or disprove it so if is concretely defined, it is bound by science. Something that is by definition out of my perception is impossible to define and thus impossible to prove or disprove. How could I perceive the proof of something I cannot perceive?

I definitely admit that there might very well be things we cannot currently perceive, and there will probably be things we will never have the technology to perceive. I don't think that's the issue here.

The thing that I find confusing is why people believe in specific things that we cannot perceive: gods, for instance. Now, 'god' is a loosely defined word; I'm assuming it refers to an intelligent, sentient mechanism that is directly or indirectly responsible for human life. I don't see how the existence of imperceptible things implies the existence of this specific imperceptible thing.

mosc wrote:Back to Nath's general question, I am a Jew. I believe in a God that is undefinable and indescribable. Belial calls this an irrelevant god. My favorite comment of his "Well, yes, if you define "God" loosely enough that it loses all meaning, and define atheism so tightly that it becomes absurd, you're absolutely right, god must exist and atheism is dumb." I agree with that statement but I also find the reverse true for myself. If you define "Atheist" loosely enough that it doesn't rule out the unknowable, and define "God" so tightly that it becomes absurd, god can't exist and atheism is the only intelligent choice. Indeed by some definitions of the word (proposed by XKCD ppl), I am very much an atheist. Personally, my definition is more in line with the Belial quote.

Your question of whither the universe would be any different if God didn't exist is kind of the whole point of my belief. I cannot know that answer or I would definitively be able to prove god, would I not? I am incapable of perceiving the ways in which the universe is effected thus I cannot answer that question. Moreover, I believe if someone DOES answer that question, they're a fool.

I wasn't asking you to prove that the perceptible universe would be any different. I'm asking whether you believe that the perceptible universe would be different.

Also, the existence of gods and belief in the existence of gods are two separate things. Assume that a god exists. I think we agree that neither you nor I can perceive it. And yet, you seem to somehow be aware of it. So, what is the mechanism that makes you believe in this god? Does it hardwire belief into you? Or were you just persuaded to believe in god by environmental factors (religious family, etc.), and by sheer chance it happens to be the case that a similar god exists? Perhaps you don't know the answer to this question. What's your best guess?

(Note: I'm referring to gods like they're objects not to make fun of your beliefs, but to be consistent with my definition of 'god' provided above. Let me know if you'd prefer a different definition.)

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Re: Religion

Postby miraidesuka » Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:04 pm UTC

mosc wrote:You see Nath? The Vehement almost evangelical zeal in which a "believer" is attacked? Let me break it down this way to you miraidesuka/zar: You win. I'm an idiot who believes in imaginary beings with the IQ of a peanut living in a naive world which you have totally disproven and shattered with your witty comments. There, can we move on now?

If you want to "win", go argue with somebody else. I have no desire to convince you or dodge the bullets you want to shoot at me endlessly until I fall over so fine! You hit me, I concede.


Unfortunatly, no, we can't move on. If you really want to be the 'persecuted' one here, I still have heaps more vitrol to pour on. The truth of the matter is though, the faithful are still in the majority, and atheists are still in the minority. Winning an argument like this is a pyrrhic victory for atheists, because even when 'we' win, we lose. You are under no pressure to bow to the rules of reason and change your opinion, but instead blame us for 'persecuting' the faithful. We can't move on because we havn't moved anywhere. You still have your faith, and are either unwilling or unable to be disabused of it, in spite of heaps of evidence and reason.

Lastly, fundamental and evangelical have no sticking power as a label for atheists. Quoteth Pharyngula:

Pharyngula wrote:The "new atheism" (I don't like that phrase, either) is about taking a core set of principles that have proven themselves powerful and useful in the scientific world — you've probably noticed that many of these uppity atheists are coming out of a scientific background — and insisting that they also apply to everything else people do. These principles are a reliance on natural causes and demanding explanations in terms of the real world, with a documentary chain of evidence, that anyone can examine. The virtues are critical thinking, flexibility, openness, verification, and evidence. The sins are dogma, faith, tradition, revelation, superstition, and the supernatural. There is no holy writ, and a central idea is that everything must be open to rational, evidence-based criticism — it's the opposite of fundamentalism.
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Re: Religion

Postby Greyarcher » Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:06 pm UTC

mosc wrote:You see Nath? The Vehement almost evangelical zeal in which a "believer" is attacked?
Um, I think it's pretty much true of almost any position, proposition, belief, etc. in "Serious Business", that if it's contentious it will be disputed. Naturally, this includes religious beliefs, and the implicitly associated position that one's religious beliefs are reasonable/defensible. It's not an "attack" if we question this, but rather a natural outcome of any discussion in which there is disagreement on a certain point.
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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:15 pm UTC

Well put, Greyarcher.

Someone around here once had a signature that ran something like "Let me never fall into the trap of thinking that I am persecuted simply because I am disagreed with", and attributed to some famous guy.

It applies.

Also, who was that? I have totally forgotten.
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Re: Religion

Postby redwards » Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:27 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Well put, Greyarcher.

Someone around here once had a signature that ran something like "Let me never fall into the trap of thinking that I am persecuted simply because I am disagreed with", and attributed to some famous guy.

It applies.

Also, who was that? I have totally forgotten.

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:44 pm UTC

I actually meant, "whose signature was that". But "who said it" was going to be my next question after that, so thanks.
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Re: Religion

Postby Matthias » Thu Oct 18, 2007 11:03 pm UTC

Ya know, I just knew somebody was going to refute my beliefs, even though I did arrive at them via a system of rational thought. I guess I can't blame you; I was posting during the last few minutes of my lunch break at the time, but now I have all the time in the world (metaphorically), so I'll try and do a better job. But, that's way too many posts to read through right now, so forgive me if I repeat previous points in my eagerness to defend my cause.

Okay, so you want empirical evidence for the existence of the soul? None, really, apart from the one philosophical argument I already mentioned. Allow me to point something out, though: any belief system, either purely philosophical, religious or scientific, arrives at unprovable assumptions if you trace it back far enough. Take science's number one assumption for instance: "the universe operates on laws, and those laws cannot be broken. If we find an instance where a law appears to be broken, this is only because we have fully understood the functionings of an even deeper law."

This appears to be true. The scientific community, and most of humanity, accepts it to be true. Much evidence corroborates the claim. But is it necessarily correct? The closer we look at the fabric of reality, the more evidence we find that there are aspects of it which are beyond our reach, beyond interaction, and beyond any sort of prediction. Quantum mechanics teaches us that there is a great deal of chaos in the universe; it also teaches that the act of observing things alters them. Do I even need to make mention of how off-kilter that idea is? I'm not going to say that science is a religion--but only because that's a semantic argument I don't care to get into. Physicists pursue the Theory of Everything, cosmologists seek the beginnings and ends of the universe, and particle physicists look ever deeper for the fundamental particles that define reality. Are these anything more than philosophical pursuits? Are there any reasons for them beyond the hope for a pristine, idealist reality? Make your own judgments.

Now, as for the nihilism issue, that was a misunderstanding on my part. I understood nihilism to mean a lack of belief in the supernatural; after looking up the definition, I see only mention of gods and such rather than the existence of the soul. My bad, smart people.

So, why do I believe in the soul you ask? I've already given one reason (the stream-of-consciousness argument), but that's not the main one. You want to know the real reason? Because there is no way to disprove it, and yet again no way to irrefutably prove it, so the logical conclusion is to choose whichever idea you like and run with it. 2,000 years ago there was no plausible evidence to be had for the existence of x-rays, elementary particles, tectonic movement or technetium; science was primitive enough that these things could not be proven by any means available to humanity, but they were just as real then as they are now. The point I'm getting at is, just because something can't be proven doesn't mean it isn't true.

But you want empirical evidence? You want another reason to roll your eyes at me? You want the real reason I believe in the soul, despite what science might try to tell me? I can't prove it, but I can recount it: I have astrally projected. I did it all the time as a child, and I've done it three times in the last five years. I will not describe the experiences; that is personal, and none of your business thank you very much. So go ahead, call it remote viewing, explain it away with spooky action at a distance or some other such tripe. I take it as evidence of the soul, and that's what I'm sticking with.

Now, that being said, there's no real reason to apply conservation of energy to individual souls. I do it anyway, however, for the "pick your ideal and run with it" reason. Given two unprovable alternatives, that the soul can be destroyed or that it cannot, I pick the second. If you want a reason, let's just say "nature abhors a vacuum." That being said, it stands to reason that if a thing cannot be destroyed then it cannot be created, either. Thus the number of souls in the universe is unchanging. Given constant births and deaths over an infinite period of time, the natural conclusion is reincarnation.

When I came to this conclusion is when I finally broke away from Christianity and started drifting towards Buddhism. One might reasonably reincarnate from heaven--no place is paradise if you cannot leave--but you couldn't escape from hell; it's eternal torment, after all. Therefore, the existence of hell is incompatible with the theory of reincarnation, and in my mind it cannot exist.

There are other reasons I like Buddhism, and other observations I've made about the universe, but I'll leave off as this is a rather long post and there's a fair chance you aren't interested anyway.
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Re: Religion

Postby zar » Thu Oct 18, 2007 11:34 pm UTC

Matthias wrote:Because there is no way to disprove it, and yet again no way to irrefutably prove it, so the logical conclusion is to choose whichever idea you like and run with it.

No, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. It's not rational to "just run with" the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster just because it can't be proved false.

But you want empirical evidence? You want another reason to roll your eyes at me? You want the real reason I believe in the soul, despite what science might try to tell me? I can't prove it, but I can recount it: I have astrally projected. I did it all the time as a child, and I've done it three times in the last five years. I will not describe the experiences; that is personal, and none of your business thank you very much. So go ahead, call it remote viewing, explain it away with spooky action at a distance or some other such tripe. I take it as evidence of the soul, and that's what I'm sticking with.

If you really believe you have this power, why not have it scientifically tested? You are claiming to be able to do something that fully falls within the realms of what science can test (it may not be able to explain, but it could at least see if you actually can do what you claim).

Edit, one more thing:
That being said, it stands to reason that if a thing cannot be destroyed then it cannot be created, either. Thus the number of souls in the universe is unchanging. Given constant births and deaths over an infinite period of time, the natural conclusion is reincarnation.

Why can't something have been created if it can't be destroyed? I don't see how that follows. And I can't make sense of the second claim, seeing as how the overall human population has been increasing constantly for as long as we can tell.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Thu Oct 18, 2007 11:51 pm UTC

Matthias wrote:Because there is no way to disprove it, and yet again no way to irrefutably prove it, so the logical conclusion is to choose whichever idea you like and run with it.

I have heard people use this argument before, and I've never understood it.

The fact that there are two possibilities does not mean you have to accept one and believe it with all your heart. It means you should have a probability distribution between the two.

Let's say I go buy a lottery ticket. I have no way to disprove the statement that it is the winning ticket, and yet no way to irrefutably prove it. Can I choose that it is, and go buy a fancy car?

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Re: Religion

Postby Matthias » Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:10 am UTC

zar wrote:No, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. It's not rational to "just run with" the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster just because it can't be proved false.

Can you prove that any one of the possible models of the universe--m-theory versus particle physics, for instance--is more true than another? By your argument, any given physicist or mathematician working on a particular theory is irrational. You know as well as I do that religion simply cannot be proven; I never claimed I could prove mine. All I said was that I had made a few observations, picked from a litter of unprovable alternatives, and drew my conclusions from there--none of which involved the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
One could just as easily assume the non-existence of the soul, but in turn I ask you to explain to me how that is any different.

zar wrote:First, don't evoke quantum mechanics to rationalize whatever power you think you have. I fail to see how quantum mechanics has the slightest thing to do with this. It's seems the most reasonable explanation would be, oh, I don't know, maybe that you were just dreaming?

Second, if you really believe you have this power, why not have it scientifically tested? You are claiming to be able to do something that fully falls within the realms of what science can test (it may not be able to explain, but it could at least see if you actually can do what you claim).


For the first part, I didn't evoke quantum mechanics. I was saying that other people might, on the basis that particle entanglement or some such thing could explain remote viewing and/or the perception of astral projection. And yes, it's possible I was dreaming; each time it has happened I have been asleep, or knocked out. It is also possible that I was not dreaming; I observed events in real-time. Again, though, that's personal, so don't ask me to describe what they were. You could disbelieve a description just as easily as you could disbelieve this veiled reference.

As to the second, that is because it is random. I stated before that it has happened only 3 times in the last five years, and it may have been even longer than that. I've tried doing it consciously before, but I don't think I can because it scares the hell out of me. My body is paralyzed when it happens, and the last three times I've done it I didn't go very far because I was too focused on getting myself moving again.

@Nath: I choose to believe in the soul, and reincarnation, fully aware of the possibility that both may be wrong, but also quite convinced that they are not. Much the same way as string theorists must simultaneously acknowledge the possibility that they are wrong, but constantly work under the assumption that they are not.
As to your lottery example, it applies only loosely. The odds of winning a six-number lottery are, according to an online calculator I found, 13,983,816 to one. The probability of the soul existing, on the other hand, is basically fifty-fifty. So I did apply a probability field, it just happens to be one where the choices are equally plausible.
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Re: Religion

Postby Gelsamel » Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:24 am UTC

Matthias wrote:Assuming the existence of the soul--which I do, because I simply do not abide by nihilism--it naturally follows to apply conservation of energy and say that a soul can neither be created nor destroyed. Perhaps each individual soul is simply a sampling of spiritual energy, in the same way that bodies are a sampling of the physical world, but I choose not to believe it. Mostly out of pride, but also from a Buddhist argument: each thought you have springs from the thought before it. Therefore it stands to reason that your stream of consciousness stretches back to the beginning of time.


Mathias your believe is not -rational- at all.

Matthias wrote:Assuming the existence of the soul--which I do


Fairly ridiculous and unfalsifiable axiom, but lets run with it.

it naturally follows to apply conservation of energy


Philosophy of Science says that Science can make NO COMMENT on the supernatural. Thus it is quite ridiculous to apply scientific principles to this hypothetical soul.

Even if Science could comment on the supernatural there would be no reason to "apply conservation of energy" because a "soul" or any other spiritual phenomena has NOTHING to do with energy in the physical sense.

Okay shit, I thought I had more time, I have to go now, post later.
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Re: Religion

Postby Torvaun » Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:28 am UTC

I am an atheist. I have trouble believing in things when there is no evidence to support them. That said, I do not have a problem with religion. I don't have a problem with the devout. One of my best friends is a very devout Catholic, and I respect him greatly. What I do have a problem with are the zealous, for every religion, and also the zealots among atheists and agnostics. When I am called a sinner for not believing the same things as others, when the fantasy novels and roleplaying materials I enjoy are called tools of Satan, when my Catholic friend is called stupid for his beliefs, these are events I could certainly live without.

In my experience, zealotry is at its highest among Baptists and atheists. I've heard that Mormons are traditionally very willing to push their beliefs on others, but my experience has demonstrated otherwise. I assume atheists are zealous so often because there are relatively few second generation atheists. Many atheists have been pushing against the religion of their parents all their lives, and see any religious statement as an attempt to bring them back into the fold, so to speak.
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Re: Religion

Postby zar » Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:29 am UTC

Matthias wrote:
zar wrote:No, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. It's not rational to "just run with" the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster just because it can't be proved false.

Can you prove that any one of the possible models of the universe--m-theory versus particle physics, for instance--is more true than another? By your argument, any given physicist or mathematician working on a particular theory is irrational.

That's the whole idea of what they're trying to do. They work with the math and observations, and then work out which looks like the best theory. It's not like the just take acid and make statements based on that. The scientific method has a pretty good track record. People making major claims based on personal experiences? Not so much.

You know as well as I do that religion simply cannot be proven; I never claimed I could prove mine. All I said was that I had made a few observations, picked from a litter of unprovable alternatives, and drew my conclusions from there--none of which involved the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
One could just as easily assume the non-existence of the soul, but in turn I ask you to explain to me how that is any different.

My point was that (I don't think) you would consider belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster rational just because it can't be disproved. As for why I don't believe that a soul exists, my answer is the same answer to why I don't believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- there is no good reason to believe that it does exist. Present some evidence, and I'll be happy to reconsider.

As to the second, that is because it is random. I stated before that it has happened only 3 times in the last five years, and it may have been even longer than that. I've tried doing it consciously before, but I don't think I can because it scares the hell out of me. My body is paralyzed when it happens, and the last three times I've done it I didn't go very far because I was too focused on getting myself moving again.

And that's enough proof for you, for such a huge claim, when it could simply be explained as sleep paralysis, or something like that? Or is there more evidence that you are going on but haven't mentioned?

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:39 am UTC

Matthias wrote:@Nath: I choose to believe in the soul, and reincarnation, fully aware of the possibility that both may be wrong, but also quite convinced that they are not. Much the same way as string theorists must simultaneously acknowledge the possibility that they are wrong, but constantly work under the assumption that they are not.

Assumption is not the same thing as what most people mean by 'belief'. I doubt most string theorists believe in the string theory: they just prove statements that are true if the string theory is true.

Assumption: I don't know whether I'll win the lottery or not, but if I win, I'll buy a fancy car.
Belief: I'm going to win the lottery anyway, so I'll buy a fancy car.

Matthias wrote:As to your lottery example, it applies only loosely. The odds of winning a six-number lottery are, according to an online calculator I found, 13,983,816 to one. The probability of the soul existing, on the other hand, is basically fifty-fifty. So I did apply a probability field, it just happens to be one where the choices are equally plausible.

First, where did you get 'fifty-fifty'? Why not 75-25, or 25-75?

Second, if you think that something has a 50% chance of being true, in what sense do you believe in it? Does it make sense for a pregnant woman to believe that the child is a boy, and start buying boys' clothes, without getting an ultrasound?

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Re: Religion

Postby Greyarcher » Fri Oct 19, 2007 1:30 am UTC

Matthias wrote:You want the real reason I believe in the soul, despite what science might try to tell me? I can't prove it, but I can recount it: I have astrally projected. I did it all the time as a child, and I've done it three times in the last five years. I will not describe the experiences; that is personal, and none of your business thank you very much. So go ahead, call it remote viewing, explain it away with spooky action at a distance or some other such tripe.
You mentioned that these experiences occurred when you were sleeping/unconscious. Did you receive corroboration from reliable sources that specific events you viewed actually occurred? Moreover, were the corroborated details in the events so specific that: (1) they could not have merely been part of a dream involving such an event; and (2) the specific details of the actual event could not have entered your brain while in an unconscious/semi-conscious state?

For instance, if I walked out into the street only to see a car failing to stop at a red light and then hitting me, it seems entirely plausible that I might lose consciousness and dream of being taken to a hospital. Naturally, if I'm wake up and find that I was taken to a hospital, I shouldn't be surprised nor consider it an out-of-body experience. Nor should I be surprised if one of the people who took care of me happened to have brown hair (as I dreamed), nor if I happened to know specific persons' names (as my brain may have latched onto it in a moment of partial consciousness).

Matthias wrote:Thus the number of souls in the universe is unchanging. Given constant births and deaths over an infinite period of time, the natural conclusion is reincarnation.

One might reasonably reincarnate from heaven--no place is paradise if you cannot leave--but you couldn't escape from hell; it's eternal torment, after all. Therefore, the existence of hell is incompatible with the theory of reincarnation, and in my mind it cannot exist.
The existence of hell cannot be ruled out, because you haven't demonstrated that the overall quantity of souls remains constant. For instance, the increase in human population would mean more souls are embodied in humans--where are they coming from? Because souls cannot be perceived, it is possible that there are a nigh-infinite quantity of free floating souls waiting to be embodied, hence it would be possible for souls to be permanently shunted into hell without problem. Is this not so?
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Re: Religion

Postby Matthias » Fri Oct 19, 2007 2:18 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:Philosophy of Science says that Science can make NO COMMENT on the supernatural. Thus it is quite ridiculous to apply scientific principles to this hypothetical soul.

Of course it is, to you, if you believe in Philosophy of Science. So you are drawing a conclusion based on a rather arbitrary rule, in my opinion. Also, what makes you say the soul is supernatural? If it does indeed exist, then it is quite natural, and therefore subject to scientific analysis, which is what I've been attempting if you haven't noticed. Unless I mistake you, "supernatural" equates to "imaginary." So your proposal that the soul is not subject to scientific analysis is based on the idea that it does not exist, when acknowledging the possibility of its existence opens the door for a more scientific approach. That's fundamentalism with a fancy hat, unless I miss my mark.
zar wrote:My point was that (I don't think) you would consider belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster rational just because it can't be disproved. As for why I don't believe that a soul exists, my answer is the same answer to why I don't believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- there is no good reason to believe that it does exist. Present some evidence, and I'll be happy to reconsider.

There is also arguably no good reason to assume the soul--and for that matter, the FSM--does not exist. And again, you know as well as I do that this matter is, with present scientific knowledge, unprovable. I can no more provide you with evidence of the soul than you can provide me with evidence against it, so I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree. That's fine with me; I'm not trying to convert anyone here, I'm just laying out my ideas and defending them against contradictory viewpoints.
Nath wrote:Assumption is not the same thing as what most people mean by 'belief'. I doubt most string theorists believe in the string theory: they just prove statements that are true if the string theory is true.

I want you to appreciate how difficult it is not to call this nitpicking. I mean, really, this is the same thing as saying that particle physicists don't really believe in an elementary particle. If string theorists didn't believe in string theory, they wouldn't dedicate years--or perhaps their entire lives--towards trying to prove it.
Nath wrote:First, where did you get 'fifty-fifty'? Why not 75-25, or 25-75?

Second, if you think that something has a 50% chance of being true, in what sense do you believe in it? Does it make sense for a pregnant woman to believe that the child is a boy, and start buying boys' clothes, without getting an ultrasound?

I get fifty-fifty because there is an equal amount of irrefutable evidence for both possibilities: zero. I won't touch the second part until you provide a better definition of belief than italicizing.
greyarcher wrote:The existence of hell cannot be ruled out, because you haven't demonstrated that the overall quantity of souls remains constant. For instance, the increase in human population would mean more souls are embodied in humans--where are they coming from? Because souls cannot be perceived, it is possible that there are a nigh-infinite quantity of free floating souls waiting to be embodied, hence it would be possible for souls to be permanently shunted into hell without problem. Is this not so?

Working from my initial assumption that souls cannot be destroyed, and the immediate conclusion that souls cannot be created, I believe I've proven my point quite well. You could as easily assume souls can be destroyed, and come up with an equally valid conclusion from that. I do not claim that my proposal is the only possibility; I only claim that it is on equal footing with every other possibility.
Also, the human population may be rising, but animal population is shrinking, and there is always the possibility of life on other planets shrinking as well. It is perhaps possible that there are a very large number of souls and we simply haven't "gone through them" yet. Conservation of energy, however, implies an infinite rather than finite timeline. Therefore, there was an infinite amount of time before now: an infinite number of big bangs, or creations, or whatever belief you cater to. Assuming the existence of hell, the number of reincarnating souls would dwindle: perhaps at a rather unsteady rate, but dwindle nonetheless. Any finite number reducing itself at any rate over an infinite period of time eventually depletes itself to zero, so there wouldn't be any souls left by now.
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Re: Religion

Postby ndansmith » Fri Oct 19, 2007 4:23 am UTC

If anyone wants to discuss religion in a thoroughgoing manner, there is always GodGab. Just saying is all. ;-)

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Re: Religion

Postby Belial » Fri Oct 19, 2007 5:30 am UTC

I want you to appreciate how difficult it is not to call this nitpicking. I mean, really, this is the same thing as saying that particle physicists don't really believe in an elementary particle. If string theorists didn't believe in string theory, they wouldn't dedicate years--or perhaps their entire lives--towards trying to prove it.


Just because the distinction is fine, does not mean it is trivial. The scientist believes it is a likely theory, enough so that he is willing to dedicate years, or his entire life, to *searching for proof*. He does not believe that the theory is *true* until he has that proof, in a consistent, repeatable fashion.

The scientist does not look at all the potential explanations, say "hey, that one sounds good, let's go with that one," and then just *assume* it's true and move on with his life. He says "that one sounds good. Let's test it. And test it. And test it. And keep going until we have something less lame than 'that one sounds good'".

Thus, the distinction.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Fri Oct 19, 2007 5:49 am UTC

Matthias wrote:I want you to appreciate how difficult it is not to call this nitpicking. I mean, really, this is the same thing as saying that particle physicists don't really believe in an elementary particle. If string theorists didn't believe in string theory, they wouldn't dedicate years--or perhaps their entire lives--towards trying to prove it.

That's really not true. Example: I'm a computer scientist. I don't believe that P = NP. I don't believe that P != NP (though this is looking increasingly likely). However, let's say I was playing around and discovered the following result: "if P = NP, then anything that a quantum computer can solve, a deterministic computer can solve in the same amount of time". I would be pretty excited, and would certainly write it up, even though I don't know whether P = NP. I don't think it's a trivial distinction at all.

Matthias wrote:I get fifty-fifty because there is an equal amount of irrefutable evidence for both possibilities: zero. I won't touch the second part until you provide a better definition of belief than italicizing.

There's also zero irrefutable evidence that Thor and Odin and Vishnu and Larry exist (or don't). That doesn't make the odds fifty-fifty. In fact, since Thor, Vishnu and Larry are mutually exclusive, probability would be broken if all three had fifty-fifty chances of existing.

As for defining belief: for this discussion, let's define it as 'being certain'.

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Re: Religion

Postby Matthias » Fri Oct 19, 2007 6:47 am UTC

Belial wrote:Just because the distinction is fine, does not mean it is trivial. The scientist believes it is a likely theory, enough so that he is willing to dedicate years, or his entire life, to *searching for proof*. He does not believe that the theory is *true* until he has that proof, in a consistent, repeatable fashion.

The scientist does not look at all the potential explanations, say "hey, that one sounds good, let's go with that one," and then just *assume* it's true and move on with his life. He says "that one sounds good. Let's test it. And test it. And test it. And keep going until we have something less lame than 'that one sounds good'".

Thus, the distinction.


And what about the search for a Theory of Everything, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity? I gather there isn't much in the way of evidence to support the idea that the two can be rectified; most of the evidence leans the other way. So why can't physicists simply accept the idea that the universe functions one way at the atomic level and one way on the micro level? Because, dammit, that just can't be right.
I'm not saying scientists aren't rational; I am saying that science is sometimes as much a matter of faith as religion is. I am also saying that--understanding that the types of evidence you can gather for spiritual topics is essentially limited to conjecture--the quest for spiritual knowledge can be just as ordered and rational as the quest for scientific knowledge.

Nath wrote:There's also zero irrefutable evidence that Thor and Odin and Vishnu and Larry exist (or don't). That doesn't make the odds fifty-fifty. In fact, since Thor, Vishnu and Larry are mutually exclusive, probability would be broken if all three had fifty-fifty chances of existing.

As for defining belief: for this discussion, let's define it as 'being certain'.

Let's examine the math here. Given three equally likely, mutually exclusive possibilities, each has a likelihood of 33.333... percent. Given two equally likely, mutually exclusive possibilities, each has a likelihood of fifty percent. Now what I want you to understand is how difficult it is not to question your motives. You are using incorrect versions of a strategy you suggested I use in an attempt to disprove my ideas. Given that you seem generally intelligent, my first instinct is that you're just trying to make me angry. If this is a mistake, then I apologize; if it isn't: don't waste your time.

Now, as to the belief thing, read the above if you haven't already.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Fri Oct 19, 2007 8:04 am UTC

Matthias wrote:
Nath wrote:There's also zero irrefutable evidence that Thor and Odin and Vishnu and Larry exist (or don't). That doesn't make the odds fifty-fifty. In fact, since Thor, Vishnu and Larry are mutually exclusive, probability would be broken if all three had fifty-fifty chances of existing.

Let's examine the math here. Given three equally likely, mutually exclusive possibilities, each has a likelihood of 33.333... percent. Given two equally likely, mutually exclusive possibilities, each has a likelihood of fifty percent. Now what I want you to understand is how difficult it is not to question your motives. You are using incorrect versions of a strategy you suggested I use in an attempt to disprove my ideas. Given that you seem generally intelligent, my first instinct is that you're just trying to make me angry. If this is a mistake, then I apologize; if it isn't: don't waste your time.

No, I'm not trying to make you angry. I'm trying to point out what seems to be a flaw in your reasoning: the fact that there's no concrete evidence either way does not mean that both possibilities are equally likely.

Consider the Thor, Vishnu, Larry idea above. What is the probability that Vishnu exists? 33ish percent, by your logic.
Now, either Vishnu exists, or he does not. Two mutually exclusive properties; no concrete evidence either way. So now it's 50 percent?

So which is it, then? 50 or 33? Both answers seem consistent with your reasoning. It seems that the probability of an event is not simply the reciprocal of the number of mutually exclusive properties with no evidence. That's the point I'm trying to make.

In other words, the existence of Thor, Vishnu and Larry need not be equally likely. The existence and non-existence of Vishnu need not be equally likely. The existence and non-existence of the soul need not be equally likely. Claiming that the chances of something are 50% is as strong a statement as claiming that the chances are 98%, and both statements are equally in need of justification.

And the ultimate objective here is not to disprove your beliefs. The objective is to understand the logic behind your beliefs. I am curious about whether there is such a basis, because I know a few generally rational people with beliefs similar to yours.

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Re: Religion

Postby Randvek » Fri Oct 19, 2007 8:41 am UTC

Everybody has religion. There's only two things you really need to ask: is it organized or unorganized, and do you accept or deny that you have one? Everything else is just your flavor of religion.

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Fri Oct 19, 2007 8:54 am UTC

Randvek wrote:Everybody has religion. There's only two things you really need to ask: is it organized or unorganized, and do you accept or deny that you have one? Everything else is just your flavor of religion.

Pop tarts. You are thinking of pop tarts. Not religion. Common mistake.

religion
noun 1 the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. 2 a particular system of faith and worship. 3 a pursuit or interest followed with devotion.

The third one, maybe, but I'd probably notice if I had one of the other two.

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Re: Religion

Postby Amicitia » Fri Oct 19, 2007 9:02 am UTC

A lot of people on this forum place a lot of faith on reason, logic, and science. It's hard to not believe in anything. I don't think anyone has the answer key to life hanging around, filled with perfect information.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Fri Oct 19, 2007 9:06 am UTC

Amicitia wrote:A lot of people on this forum place a lot of faith on reason, logic, and science. It's hard to not believe in anything. I don't think anyone has the answer key to life hanging around, filled with perfect information.

Reason, logic and the scientific method are tools. They are intuitive, and seem to work better than the alternatives, so I use them. It's not a question of faith.

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Re: Religion

Postby Gelsamel » Fri Oct 19, 2007 10:45 am UTC

Matthias wrote:
Gelsamel wrote:Philosophy of Science says that Science can make NO COMMENT on the supernatural. Thus it is quite ridiculous to apply scientific principles to this hypothetical soul.


Of course it is, to you, if you believe in Philosophy of Science. So you are drawing a conclusion based on a rather arbitrary rule, in my opinion. Also, what makes you say the soul is supernatural? If it does indeed exist, then it is quite natural, and therefore subject to scientific analysis, which is what I've been attempting if you haven't noticed. Unless I mistake you, "supernatural" equates to "imaginary." So your proposal that the soul is not subject to scientific analysis is based on the idea that it does not exist, when acknowledging the possibility of its existence opens the door for a more scientific approach. That's fundamentalism with a fancy hat, unless I miss my mark.


When using science to explain things you MUST SUBSCRIBE TO THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE. Otherwise you are -not- using science. It is not arbitrary at all. Souls are non-physical (unless you use some definition of soul other then the common one) and are therefore by DEFINITION Supernatural (not subject to natural laws). Thus using "Conservation of Energy" to describe the eternalness of the soul (even if they had some similar concepts) is quite ridiculous. Also supernatural things have NOTHING to do with being imaginary. Supernatural things are things which -by definition- are unexplainable via. natural laws.

As for your astral projection "Spooky action at a distance" has absolutely nothing to do with it... it's called hallucinations.

So far I've seen you misuse scientific principle after scientific principle while talking about your non-physical supernatural soul. I have no problem with you believing in a soul but trying to validated it by using scientific principles which you obviously misunderstand is unscientific (via. philosophy of science) and frankly quite ridiculous, your supernatural beliefs need no validation within logic OR science, so trying to prove that your belief is logical or scientific is un-needed.


As for the whole "Science is just belief of another kind" and "Evidence can't prove anything" - my reply is "No shit" however Evidence does EVIDENCE THINGS - things which are evidenced heavily are MORE LIKELY to be similar to "objective reality" (don't start). And yes, all concepts, including science is based on axioms (Namely Empiricism and the Philosophy of science). However the axioms are reasonable (not I believe them "just because") they also allow science to work!

Science is the BEST tool for EVERYONE to figure out stuff about the world (there is no better tool, even if science is flawed in some way, it's still the best) and allows us to invent and create and use everything you see around you.

The difference in faith is "The sun has risen every single day for the past MILLIONS OF YEARS and we know EXACTLY how the bodies in the solar system move, and we can send satellites into space and people to the moon, therefore It reasonable to believe in this HUGE body of evidence and assume the sun will rise the next day"

VS.

"God/Soul/<Insert Supernatural Something Here> cannot be disproved (since they're supernatural...) and I've experienced and seen weird things that I personally can't explain (although science can explain quite simply) therefore <insert first thing> must be real/exist"

Now first of all there is a clear difference between the two.

2nd of all, I have NO PROBLEM with people believing the 2nd. HOWEVER - when you start saying stuff like "Conservation of Energy" - "Spooky action at a distance" or any other scientific principle to try to explain the supernatural - THAT is when you have gone to far. You're applying science to the supernatural (which cannot be done).

Your believe doesn't need logic or science (especially science) to validate your beliefs. And they are in no way rational either.


==============================================


2 Dif colours because I just had two totally different chains of thought going at once, so they would seem disjointed if you took them as one whole post... Plus I think I reiterated stuff in the 2nd half again anyway... >.>;

Hope that was coherent, I suck at writing my thoughts up.
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Re: Religion

Postby VannA » Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:25 am UTC

Nath wrote:Reason, logic and the scientific method are tools. They are intuitive, and seem to work better than the alternatives, so I use them. It's not a question of faith.


*arguable*

You have to have faith in the reliablity of your senses. Its more practical, and easier to do so.. but you've still got it.

Rock-solid-belief... which is epistemologically groundless.
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Re: Religion

Postby VannA » Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:28 am UTC

VannA wrote:
Nath wrote:Reason, logic and the scientific method are tools. They are intuitive, and seem to work better than the alternatives, so I use them. It's not a question of faith.


*arguable*

You have to have faith in the reliablity of your senses. Its more practical, and easier to do so.. but you've still got it.

Rock-solid-belief... which is epistemologically groundless.



Hmm. I'm generally actually agreeing with Nath here, but I hate it when one sided is posited as not requiring belief.

As for the soul business.. well, you can believe what you'd like, but as Gel has mentioned, the grounds you are stating do not rationally lead there.

Nothing you've said requires the existance of a soul.. and for me, I choose to believe they don't exist, precisely because I see no reason or requirement for them to do so, to explain any part of the world I see around me.
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Re: Religion

Postby Robin S » Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:32 am UTC

As far as I am concerned, the absolute truth of what does and does not "exist" is meaningless, and it is only practical to talk about what we experience (this includes logic, maths and science). That is why I count myself as an agnostic.
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Re: Religion

Postby mosc » Fri Oct 19, 2007 2:28 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
miraidesuka wrote:You see Nath? The Vehement almost evangelical zeal in which a "believer" is attacked?


Mosc, you started your portion of the discussion by saying, and I'm paraphrasing, "Don't try to talk about religion here, dude, they're all crazy! They won't even accept (X proposition)!"

And, incensed by the tone with which you said it, and the implicit assumption that (X proposition) was something totally rational that everyone *should* be able to accept, people pointed out that "Well, no, (X proposition) doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It has some serious problems with it. I don't think it makes us crazy or zealous if we don't accept it."

I don't see that as a particularly zealous or offensive response, despite the somewhat offensive thing they're responding to.

I didn't say you were crazy, I said you were intolerant. I didn't ask you to ACCEPT my position, I asked you to respect it. Discussion is the point yes but it can only be accomplished from a position of mutual respect.

nath wrote:The thing that I find confusing is why people believe in specific things that we cannot perceive: gods, for instance. Now, 'god' is a loosely defined word; I'm assuming it refers to an intelligent, sentient mechanism that is directly or indirectly responsible for human life. I don't see how the existence of imperceptible things implies the existence of this specific imperceptible thing.

My god is undefinable. Your definition is limiting. "Directly or indirectly responsible for human life" is a specific interpretation that is not required to believe in god IMHO.

nath wrote:I'm asking whether you believe that the perceptible universe would be different.

I BELIEVE that a human being is incapable of KNOWING the answer to your question. I BELIEVE I must be open minded about it because I accept that I am incapable of knowing. If you want me to speculate blindly, I'd have to first decide on even a basic description of the entire universe (both perceivable and imperceivable) and that's just too absurd for me to try and do. Knowing the unknowable is a game for psychics and fortune tellers. All I'm saying is I have accepted there are things I cannot know. Also, I find the question itself kind of silly. How would the universe be different without gravity? Uh, ok... how about VERY different? Or maybe there's the same thing except we call it gravito? Or maybe it's 99.999% the same? I dunno, why the hell would I speculate? See my point?

miraidesuka wrote:but instead blame us for 'persecuting' the faithful
No, the only thing I blame you for is having an aggressive attitude where you actually want to WIN this argument. If you want to discuss it and learn more about my views or explain your own, then we can discuss. If you want to debate to see who's right and who's wrong, than you can leave me out of it. If you don't accept that this is a matter of opinion and speculation with no absolute truths then we can't really even converse, can we?
Title: It was given by the XKCD moderators to me because they didn't care what I thought (I made some rantings, etc). I care what YOU think, the joke is forums.xkcd doesn't care what I think.


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