Religion

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Ramses IV
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Re: Religion

Postby Ramses IV » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:13 pm UTC

I am an atheist. Not saying that I DENY God, or the Spirit, or Jesus, or Allah, or whatever supernatural force you talk about, I just don't believe in it. I have no faith. Which most people would say is a bad thing, but I see it as just the opposite. I am willing to question and I am willing to look at evidence, and I am...etc. etc. You get the point. I guess you could call me an Existentialist.

But, if we're still talking about Pascal's Wager (it was mentioned a couple posts back), it just doesn't make sense. "Belief" isn't something you turn on and off like a faucet. What Pascal was describes is more like FAKED belief, or worship without faith. Sire, you can go to church, say the prayers, etc. etc., but if you don't believe in God, deciding to do what "He" wants you to do just on the off-chance that he does exist, that seems a little selfish to me. Wouldn't an omnipotent God be able to look past your fake belief and see your true feelings?
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Dextrose
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Re: Religion

Postby Dextrose » Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:56 pm UTC

I'm pretty sure this deserves a separate topic, but since this is kind of an umbrella thread, I'm putting it here.

I just saw this: http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fusea ... d=18976973

Which is pretty cool, except for one thing - the people responsible for it are people with an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with science and everything to do with demoting religion across-the-board. The reason I say this is because I've become aware recently how much of a kick atheists get out of shutting down the religious, and I've gotta say it's pissing me off. There's a great deal of incredibly useful and intelligent information out there, but atheists let the hatred they have for religious principles control their conception of religious principles themselves. In other words, what I'm saying is that atheists let religion control them anyway.

Specifically, though, I want to talk about Buddhism, because it's been a topic in my mind a lot lately, and in this little "piss on everyone spiritual" segment, I winced every time I heard the name of a prominent atheist supposedly renouncing a school of thought that doesn't make any logical sense to me to renounce. I have to question the thinking behind lumping Buddhism in with the rest of the things atheists tend to criticise, especially when this guy accuses all of these schools of thought of being "lucrative franchises." Really, it makes me question whether this guy knows what the fuck he's talking about.

Buddhism, a lucrative franchise? Since when do Tibetan monks make an insanely opulant living off of being Tibetan monks? Since they started getting slaughtered by the Chinese for believing that people are basically good? (Irony.)

True, there is a lot of money made off of Buddhism in the United States, really anwhere books are sold, and I do see the people responsible for Shambhala, an organisation I greatly respect, living rather rich lives, but I want to highlight a difference between Shambhala and, for example, the Church of Scientology:
- TCoS charges more and more money to people, restricts information as to the doctrine people are lending credence to, and then coerces them into remaining a part of the organisation
- Shambhala charges dues in order to help keep its organisation running, understands some people (college students like me) can't really pay them, and doesn't require any monetary commitment to access the teachings of the school.

That's about as capitalist as I see Buddhism - or, for that matter, Wicca, Paganism, Sufi, or a whole host of other spiritual groups - getting. Two miles from here, in the middle of Boston, there's a relatively small building where people meet regularly to meditate together, and, holy shit, it's in the middle of Boston, and it costs bloody money. I think it says a lot about this group of people that they ask, politely, for money, and they've built something as huge as they have.

So how about people's conviction that anything having to do with the spiritual is, and I'm quoting another member of this board here, "mumbo jumbo?"

Sure, if you're absolutely convinced that there's nothing good about practicing some sort of spirituality, go ahead and yell nasty things about every facet of theology you can think of - the rest of us will be over here, looking at you the same way we look at those asshole preachers who condemn everybody that doesn't believe in their Yahweh. Just because you're an atheist doesn't automatically give you some sort of philosophical high ground. I'm an atheist too. So, by many accounts, was Buddha.

The reason I think it's so astonishing that people are so quick to dismiss Buddhism is because there's no dogma in Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism to me is really just an organisation of ideas that we, as human beings, have decided are smart ideas to begin with. There's not even really a core idea like Christianity has in the Resurrection that Buddhism hangs on. Buddha didn't even have to have ever existed for Buddhism to work. People ask me what it means sometimes, and the only thing I can really come up with is, "Do your absolute best to be a good person." The rest of Buddhism are just guidelines as to how to interpret that rule, things other people have put together given what they think about the mind, the body, the soul, and the universe, in order to help other people down the same path. It's ridiculous to take Buddhist philosophy as fact without examining it and interpreting it. It denies the very things that make Buddhism Buddhism. That's why I and others refer to Buddhism as a science of the mind - every principle we take into account in physical or extrapsychological science is instead applied to a kind of intrapsychology that can't really be studied in any other way. Treating Buddhism as truth off-the-bat just doesn't work. It's sort of like being punk because other people are punk.

But, then again, I admit a level of naïvete* when it comes to criticisms of Buddhism. I really don't know what the people who (claim to) disagree with Buddhists actually believe, athough I am utterly convinced that the image of Buddhism in modern society is one blemished by the horrors that are Christianity, Islam and Scientology. (I omit Judaism simply because a Jew never pissed me the fuck off with the Torah.) So, I ask those of you who do intelligently and in an educated manner reject the principles of Buddhism, what is it that you take issue with?

*Bug: "naï�té �en"
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Nath
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:37 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:I believe that being "good" is just plain better than not. I believe that doing what's best for others is just plain better than being selfish. And further, I believe this is just as true as the earth going around the sun, even if there are people today who say, "well, obviously..." So yeah, I wouldn't say that being good is a subjective truth.

If you like, I could explain my reasoning behind this, as well. And maybe I will for the fun of it later anyways.

I believe that peanut butter is just plain better than marmite. The fact that something is a subjective truth doesn't make it any less true or any less important. Of course being "good" is just plain better than not -- that's a tautology, resulting from the fact that better means 'more good'. The fact remains that there's no objective metric of goodness.

(In other words, yes, I would be very interested in seeing the reasoning behind your claim to the contrary.)

theonlyjett wrote:"If I could, I wouldn't want to," leads me to believe that you meant that you won't chose based on utility because doing good for selfish reasons, is, in fact, not actually doing good. This is the moral position that I see taken regarding Pascal's wager.

Not really. I wouldn't want to simply because:
Nath wrote:2. I have a subjective preference that my beliefs be as close to reality as I can get them. Even to the limited extent that I can change my beliefs voluntarily to suit my other preferences, I try very hard not to.

It's not really a moral position. And if, hypothetically, it was a moral position, I don't see why it would hold any less water as a result of morals being subjective. Like I said, subjective != less true.

theonlyjett wrote:Again, doing something good for selfish reasons, does not actually count towards making you a good person. This is not my reasoning. However, there is a reward to be had that is admirable. Acquiring wisdom, knowledge, and perhaps a relationship with our maker (or even just a "greater power" if you prefer) is an admirable thing to want.

That sounds like your moral argument against Pascal's wager. Doing something 'good' for selfish reasons is precisely what it advocates.

theonlyjett wrote:Available evidence just seems to point to a god that rewards your faith.

Could you be more specific about what this evidence is?

theonlyjett wrote:
Nath wrote:1. I couldn't choose to believe in god if I wanted to, just as I can't voluntarily choose to believe that I've won the lottery. I have a limited ability to deliberately change my opinions; for the most part, my beliefs are decided by the available evidence.
Something which I'm not asking anybody to do.

Perhaps you aren't, but Pascal's wager is. That's why I brought that point up as a counterargument to Pascal's wager.

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Re: Religion

Postby TheStranger » Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:16 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Specifically, though, I want to talk about Buddhism, because it's been a topic in my mind a lot lately, and in this little "piss on everyone spiritual" segment, I winced every time I heard the name of a prominent atheist supposedly renouncing a school of thought that doesn't make any logical sense to me to renounce. I have to question the thinking behind lumping Buddhism in with the rest of the things atheists tend to criticise, especially when this guy accuses all of these schools of thought of being "lucrative franchises." Really, it makes me question whether this guy knows what the fuck he's talking about.


I've noticed that many atheists have a tendency to go "oh that's religion, and therefor stupid" to anything of a spiritual nature... It's rather unsettling.

As to Buddhism, I'm always enjoyed Zen Buddhism. I've never seen it as a religion though, more of a philosophy.
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Re: Religion

Postby tiny » Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:38 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:The reason I say this is because I've become aware recently how much of a kick atheists get out of shutting down the religious, and I've gotta say it's pissing me off. There's a great deal of incredibly useful and intelligent information out there, but atheists let the hatred they have for religious principles control their conception of religious principles themselves.
(...)
Sure, if you're absolutely convinced that there's nothing good about practicing some sort of spirituality, go ahead and yell nasty things about every facet of theology you can think of - the rest of us will be over here, looking at you the same way we look at those asshole preachers who condemn everybody that doesn't believe in their Yahweh.
I'm just having the exact same discussion with someone on (please, don't lough at me) youtube.
Atheist radicalism is just as annoying as radicalism of any other kind.
I don't get it. Why should religion be inherently evil? Just because it can be abused by humans like any other ideology? Just because some humans take it as an excuse to kill? Just because some humans make disgustingly high amounts of money with it?
The keyword in all these accusations is not 'religion'. It's 'humans'.

I see myself as an agnostic. 'God' - in my view - is a metaphor to describe the universe, and faith and religion are an aid for people who need them to make it through this chaotic world. It is their right to decide if they want to believe or not, it's their life, it's their need. No one, no matter how self-confident or arrogant has the right to interfere in an aggressive manner.
I never was religious, nor do I plan to change that. But religious texts (I include buddhism here, although I, too, see it as a philosophy) have often inspired me, and although they should always be taken with a grain of salt, they hold great wisdom.
I don't think I could ever believe in a god (or at least for longer than one of my inspired moments), but I learned to respect people who do. It took me quite a while because I used to be hold passionate speeches on how stupid and even dangerous religion is; but I finally realized that religion is what humans make of it.
So now my disgust and hatred rests solely on the human race :-D
"I write what I see, the endless procession to the guillotine." ~ de Sade

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Re: Religion

Postby Ramses IV » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:49 pm UTC

Atheist radicalism is just as annoying as radicalism of any other kind.
I don't get it. Why should religion be inherently evil? Just because it can be abused by humans like any other ideology? Just because some humans take it as an excuse to kill? Just because some humans make disgustingly high amounts of money with it?
The keyword in all these accusations is not 'religion'. It's 'humans'.

I see myself as an agnostic. 'God' - in my view - is a metaphor to describe the universe, and faith and religion are an aid for people who need them to make it through this chaotic world. It is their right to decide if they want to believe or not, it's their life, it's their need. No one, no matter how self-confident or arrogant has the right to interfere in an aggressive manner.
I never was religious, nor do I plan to change that. But religious texts (I include buddhism here, although I, too, see it as a philosophy) have often inspired me, and although they should always be taken with a grain of salt, they hold great wisdom.
I don't think I could ever believe in a god (or at least for longer than one of my inspired moments), but I learned to respect people who do. It took me quite a while because I used to be hold passionate speeches on how stupid and even dangerous religion is; but I finally realized that religion is what humans make of it.
So now my disgust and hatred rests solely on the human race :-D


I'd agree with you, somewhat. A lot of problems that seem to come from religion actually stem from humans abusing religion. Those are the people I dislike, I guess, not the actual religions themselves. One of my points of view on religion would be something like "Why does it matter if (blank) exists? Supposedly I'll find out when I die. I don't want to rush it (to death, that is)." And I agree that Atheist radicalism is pretty bad when REALLY radical.
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Re: Religion

Postby Dextrose » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:18 pm UTC

Wow, I did not expect to be backed up on that one. Especially after watching Bill O'Reilly make some statement to Kirk Cameron about how it takes a greater leap of faith than believing in "Jesus or Buddha or Allah to think that [the universe] just accidentally got that way." I realise that Bill O'Reilly is not anything close to the religious scholar he pretends to be, but...like...come on. Buddha isn't even anything close to a creator figure. What the fuck. Do people even get what Buddhism means in this country?

The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5J0cSnY ... re=related (Crockoduck for the win.)
Later that night, I believe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-rKiGJr ... re=related
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Re: Religion

Postby TheStranger » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:32 pm UTC

Dextrose wrote:Wow, I did not expect to be backed up on that one. Especially after watching Bill O'Reilly make some statement to Kirk Cameron about how it takes a greater leap of faith than believing in "Jesus or Buddha or Allah to think that [the universe] just accidentally got that way." I realise that Bill O'Reilly is not anything close to the religious scholar he pretends to be, but...like...come on. Buddha isn't even anything close to a creator figure. What the fuck. Do people even get what Buddhism means in this country?


Jesus is not a creation figure either... Though I do not agree with his statements regarding evolution I do understand the point he was trying to make there... That it takes a greater leap of faith to believe that the world randomly happened then it takes to believe that there is a divine element to the world.
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Re: Religion

Postby Godeler » Sat Apr 19, 2008 6:19 pm UTC

TheStranger wrote:
Dextrose wrote:Wow, I did not expect to be backed up on that one. Especially after watching Bill O'Reilly make some statement to Kirk Cameron about how it takes a greater leap of faith than believing in "Jesus or Buddha or Allah to think that [the universe] just accidentally got that way." I realise that Bill O'Reilly is not anything close to the religious scholar he pretends to be, but...like...come on. Buddha isn't even anything close to a creator figure. What the fuck. Do people even get what Buddhism means in this country?


Jesus is not a creation figure either... Though I do not agree with his statements regarding evolution I do understand the point he was trying to make there... That it takes a greater leap of faith to believe that the world randomly happened then it takes to believe that there is a divine element to the world.


Problem with that idea is, where this divine element came from. Did it "randomly happen"? Was it, too, the result of metadivine intervention? What about an infinite regress of divinities? The divine element only seems to compound the problem of the universe's improbability by requiring something even more improbable (since it's more complex) to solve the problem. Yes, I am cribbing from Dawkins here, and I'm not his biggest fan, but he has a point there.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Sat Apr 19, 2008 7:40 pm UTC

Dextrose wrote:So, I ask those of you who do intelligently and in an educated manner reject the principles of Buddhism, what is it that you take issue with?

The core ideas of Buddhism? None, really; they're quite reasonable. I don't like the emphasis on reincarnation, but that might just be a metaphor.

The thing is, the core ideas of a religion have very little to do with how that religion is actually practiced. Most people seem to treat Gautama Buddha and the bodhisattvas as gods. They pray when they should be thinking. In practice, Buddhism looks like just another religion.

Sure, there's nothing objectionable than I know of in the core of Buddhism, but that's true of several belief systems. When someone says 'Buddhism', I think of the thing that most people practice, not the original set of ideas.

This is how it works for many religions. I was raised in a Hindu family. I admire many of the philosophical ideas in Hinduism. Yet, it isn't productive for me to call myself a Hindu, because my understanding of how the world works is fundamentally different from that of most Hindus.

As for the dismissive attitude towards spirituality: I personally am wary of most things that people call 'spiritual' because they are usually associated with belief in some non-physical, supernatural 'spirit' or 'ghost'. 'Spiritual' could mean 'related to the mind' or something, but in practice, I rarely see people use the word that way.

Ramses IV wrote:I'd agree with you, somewhat. A lot of problems that seem to come from religion actually stem from humans abusing religion. Those are the people I dislike, I guess, not the actual religions themselves. One of my points of view on religion would be something like "Why does it matter if (blank) exists? Supposedly I'll find out when I die. I don't want to rush it (to death, that is)." And I agree that Atheist radicalism is pretty bad when REALLY radical.

I'm the opposite. I have nothing against the people in question; my objection is to their inaccurate, harmful beliefs.

Do you remember that news story a few years ago about someone who wanted to change the value of pi to 3? (Hopefully a hoax, but that's beside the point.) Imagine that they had managed to go through with it, and classrooms full of kids grew up believing that. Would you object to the misguided kids themselves, or to the false belief they were given? Would you say that all the falling bridges and other failed engineering projects were the result of people 'abusing' the belief that pi = 3?

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Re: Religion

Postby Robin S » Sat Apr 19, 2008 8:46 pm UTC

Comments in this thread about the arbtirariness of assuming an intelligent creator have led me to an idea that I'm about to post in the thread on the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Take a look if you're interested.
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

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Re: Religion

Postby TheStranger » Sat Apr 19, 2008 9:53 pm UTC

Godeler wrote:Problem with that idea is, where this divine element came from. Did it "randomly happen"? Was it, too, the result of metadivine intervention? What about an infinite regress of divinities? The divine element only seems to compound the problem of the universe's improbability by requiring something even more improbable (since it's more complex) to solve the problem. Yes, I am cribbing from Dawkins here, and I'm not his biggest fan, but he has a point there.


Well one could argue that a supreme divine being would be unbound by time, rendering the discussion of what came first .
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Re: Religion

Postby tiny » Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

Nath wrote:Would you object to the misguided kids themselves, or to the false belief they were given? Would you say that all the falling bridges and other failed engineering projects were the result of people 'abusing' the belief that pi = 3?
I think this example is besides the point. You can calculate the truth about pi, but you can't do so for the truth about the universe and it's origin.

I do get, though, what you want to say:
Of course there are children who grow up in a religious environment that teaches them to hate the infidel. But why is there so much hate? Every religion can be interpreted in a benevolent way, too, so it's not necessarily the (only) reason!
I think that a hateful interpretation of a religious text is just a way to express a hate that would be felt just as much in an atheistic environment.
If there were no religion, the angry and desperate would turn to some other flavour of fundamentalism to channel their rage. Radical communists can attack civilists just as well as radical moslems. And these bombs would kill just as many people.
Now, would it be communism's fault if they'd do so? No. It'd be the fault of the people who decide to take whatever framework they happen to stumble upon as an excuse to act out their destructive wishes, instead of putting their energy in constructive ways of dealing with whatever circumstances drive them.

People can decide to act evil. Religion is what you make of it.
"I write what I see, the endless procession to the guillotine." ~ de Sade

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:01 pm UTC

tiny wrote:I think this example is besides the point. You can calculate the truth about pi, but you can't do so for the truth about the universe and it's origin.

It's true that I can't directly observe certain truths about the universe. However, I can observe and evaluate people's arguments.

Let's take something harder to observe than the value of pi. Let's say some school somewhere starts teaching people that P=NP. I can't directly calculate whether or not this is true. However, I can examine their argument and figure out whether or not it is valid. If it is invalid, I would object to their beliefs on the grounds that they are based on bad reasoning, and therefore uncorrelated with reality. (Not necessarily false, mind you; just uncorrelated with reality.)

tiny wrote:People can decide to act evil. Religion is what you make of it.

To an extent, yes, religion is just one way for people to justify what they would have done anyway, good or bad. But there are times when religion is a motivator in and of itself -- again, for both good and bad. We could argue about whether the net effect of religion is positive or negative, but frankly that would be beside the point. The main reason I object to most religious beliefs is simply that the reasoning behind them is invalid.

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Re: Religion

Postby __Kit » Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:23 am UTC

Read this thread a while ago, and today I watched this, I thought it was really awesome and provoking, check it out.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/234

"As she accepts her 2008 TED Prize, author and scholar Karen Armstrong talks about how the Abrahamic religions -- Islam, Judaism, Christianity -- have been diverted from the moral purpose they share to foster compassion."
=]

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Re: Religion

Postby tiny » Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:45 pm UTC

Nath wrote:The main reason I object to most religious beliefs is simply that the reasoning behind them is invalid.
You mean the 'It's written in the <insert name of holy scripture>, which is the Word of God, so God must exist and what's written in the <nohs> must be true.' part?
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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:46 pm UTC

Ramses IV wrote:What Pascal was describes is more like FAKED belief, or worship without faith. Sire, you can go to church, say the prayers, etc. etc., but if you don't believe in God, deciding to do what "He" wants you to do just on the off-chance that he does exist, that seems a little selfish to me. Wouldn't an omnipotent God be able to look past your fake belief and see your true feelings?
Yes, he would. I don't think Pascal advocates pure faking it, though. I think the point is that he's talking to those who say, "I can't chose to believe," and he's saying that they actually could, if they wanted to, over time, to learn about those things for themselves, and come to believe in god stronger. It's the "fake it 'till you make it," deal. It's relevant to other things, too. For instance, I've read that if you always view yourself as a smoker, you will always have a problem with smoking. Real change happens when you decide you aren't a smoker anymore, regardless of whether or not you happen to have a cig in your hand at the moment. Same thing with money. "I'll make a budget when I have more money," doesn't cut it. You have to treat your money like wealthy people do now if you want to be wealthy in the future. You can't keep doing what you've always done and expect something different this time.

So, basically, he's saying that you could very well explore these areas if you wanted to, even if you didn't believe in god in a literal sense.

Nath wrote:In other words, yes, I would be very interested in seeing the reasoning behind your claim to the contrary.
Alright, I think we may be doing the semantics thing now. So I looked it up. "Existing in the mind," is what you seem to mean then. I was thinking more like "more than one way to interpret."

The example I thought of was that there is a person trapped in a house on fire. Person A would want to go into the house to rescue the trapped person. Person B would like to do that, too, but think that it is too dangerous and that the most likely thing to happen is that two people die instead of one. Therefore, person B believes that the best thing is not to go rescue the trapped person. Person C on the other hand will simply not want to put themselves at risk at all and let the trapped person die, even if there was a decent chance of rescuing them.

A and B may have good arguments over what the best thing to do was, but person C was not doing good at all, rather they were clearly selfish. Person C isn't going to be punished here, but A and B would know not to trust them with certain responsibilities (firefighter?) if they weren't already not trusting them. For person C to call what they did "good," because of their excuse that it wasn't their fault that the house was on fire, or that they didn't trap the person in there in the first place, so it's "not their problem," is to me obviously not true.

This is what I mean, by good being "ultimately not open to interpretation." I think the word subjective was being misunderstood by me, in which case, "good" would be considered subjective, or "existing in the mind."

The stance "it's ok to be selfish as long as you aren't hurting anybody," seems to me like an excuse to be mediocre so you don't have to try. Further, not attempting rescue for selfish reasons is, to me, the same as hurting them yourself through inaction. Then comes the slippery slope to just plain being bad.

Nath wrote:That sounds like your moral argument against Pascal's wager. Doing something 'good' for selfish reasons is precisely what it advocates.
Yes, it generally is my argument against it. But only in it's application as a tool to persuade others (non-thinkers, if you will) to follow somebody else's religion for fear of punishment or hope of reward. In other words, for me to use as a tool to get someone who can't argue for themselves to listen to everything else I might have them believe. And I also am against an interpretation of it that one should just "fake it" or that following along with what others believe is a valid spiritual practice. It is an otherwise sound logical argument.

Nath wrote:Could you be more specific about what this evidence is?
I have already talked about some things in this thread and I think a couple others about this. Long story short, it's all evidence that can be easily refuted by the skeptic. "Miracles," seemingly supernatural occurrences, and my life's path, fundamental to who I am today. In all the types of evidence, intuition, personal experience, testimonies, and anecdotal evidence, point me quite plainly to god. The other kind, scientific evidence cannot even begin to touch the subject. Am I to think that god does not exist because science cannot comment on him? "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen," (1 John 4:20) says clearly that god admits to not being seen. How should I even attempt, then, to prove him? Luckily, proof sort of contradicts the process of learning. If god just stepped down out of heaven and said "Here I am, believe now," then everyone would more or less have to believe, and no one would have to search. Which is kind of the point. It would be like someone saying (using your example) P=NP without telling you why. Then you would know it, but you wouldn't understand it. In this instance, too, it's the understanding, not the knowing, that's important. While we're on the topic of P=NP (or not), I would like to point out, that computer scientists (is that appropriate?) still want to know the answer to the question. Even though it seems, at this point, that it's currently unknowable. Granted, I am not one of those people who studies such things, so I wouldn't necessarily care (well, I would if it meant better computers, but not enough to spend my life doing it). The god question (soul, afterlife, meaning of life, etc.), on the other hand, is not about computers, but about ourselves. All of us and each of us. So I would think we all should care about it.

TheStranger wrote:I've noticed that many atheists have a tendency to go "oh that's religion, and therefor stupid" to anything of a spiritual nature... It's rather unsettling.
You can expand this to say, "oh that's someone involved with something someone else I knew who I didn't like was also involved with, so I don't like them, either." Anger leads to hate, and hate to suffering. :)

TheStranger wrote:Jesus is not a creation figure either...
Er... that's not entirely true.

TheStranger wrote:...I do understand the point he was trying to make there... That it takes a greater leap of faith to believe that the world randomly happened then it takes to believe that there is a divine element to the world.
I don't want to shoot my own arguments in the foot or anything, but I don't agree with this either. By our understanding of logic, god had to come from somewhere, too. I don't find it anymore difficult to presume god existed forever (given our severely limited understanding of existence before Big Bang) than I do to presume that there is no god, given only scientific evidence. Of course, many spiritual ideas cannot rely on science for answers, so, we're sort of forced to go with other evidence, or remain ignorant of any ideas at all.

Nath wrote:The main reason I object to most religious beliefs is simply that the reasoning behind them is invalid.
By "most" do you mean all and are only being polite, or do you really mean most? If you really mean most, what are some religious beliefs that do have valid reasoning?

__Kit wrote:Read this thread a while ago, and today I watched this, I thought it was really awesome and provoking, check it out.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/234
I liked her talk a lot.

The thing is, I do realize that religious organizations are to blame for a lot of hate. She said something along the lines of the word "belief" changing in meaning from basically belief in an action or commitment to ideals, to belief of specific doctrines.

What I don't want, is to answer anger with anger and hate with hate. There's both on all sides and it's won't end until we each stop contributing to it.

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:10 am UTC

tiny wrote:
Nath wrote:The main reason I object to most religious beliefs is simply that the reasoning behind them is invalid.
You mean the 'It's written in the <insert name of holy scripture>, which is the Word of God, so God must exist and what's written in the <nohs> must be true.' part?

That's a common one, yes.

theonlyjett wrote:
Nath wrote:In other words, yes, I would be very interested in seeing the reasoning behind your claim to the contrary.
Alright, I think we may be doing the semantics thing now. So I looked it up. "Existing in the mind," is what you seem to mean then. I was thinking more like "more than one way to interpret."
...
This is what I mean, by good being "ultimately not open to interpretation." I think the word subjective was being misunderstood by me, in which case, "good" would be considered subjective, or "existing in the mind."

If something only exists in your mind, then by its very nature it has to be open to interpretation. Our only way to observe it is to interpret it. There's nothing we can measure with instruments; it's all a matter of thinking and feeling -- and different people will think and feel differently.

This does not mean that in specific cases, your answer cannot be obvious to you (as in the case of your fire example). It's just that any moral position is true or false only with respect to the observer, not the whole universe. Kind of like statements about velocities.

This also doesn't mean you can't say 'C is immoral', and be right. It just means that you'd only be right in your frame of reference, and not necessarily in C's, or somebody else's. I, for instance, would admire somebody who went running into a fire for altruistic reasons -- but I would not hold it against C that he values himself more than some stranger.

theonlyjett wrote:Luckily, proof sort of contradicts the process of learning. If god just stepped down out of heaven and said "Here I am, believe now," then everyone would more or less have to believe, and no one would have to search. Which is kind of the point. It would be like someone saying (using your example) P=NP without telling you why. Then you would know it, but you wouldn't understand it. In this instance, too, it's the understanding, not the knowing, that's important. While we're on the topic of P=NP (or not), I would like to point out, that computer scientists (is that appropriate?) still want to know the answer to the question.

I don't think I understand. It doesn't at all seem to me that proofs contradict learning. Would you suggest that mathematicians and scientists stop trying to prove things? Proofs tell us that certain things are true. Learning is the process of finding out which things are true and which things aren't. Proving things is learning.

If there is an all-powerful creature out there, deciding my fate, I'd like to observe it; measure it; see how it works; learn from it. This is no different from how I treat other interesting natural phenomena, particularly ones that affect me.

theonlyjett wrote:
Nath wrote:The main reason I object to most religious beliefs is simply that the reasoning behind them is invalid.
By "most" do you mean all and are only being polite, or do you really mean most? If you really mean most, what are some religious beliefs that do have valid reasoning?

By 'most', I mean 'all the ones I've come across'. It is possible that someone out there has a good, logical argument for religion, backed by the evidence.

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Re: Religion

Postby Mancho » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:17 am UTC

Nath wrote:If something only exists in your mind, then by its very nature it has to be open to interpretation. Our only way to observe it is to interpret it. There's nothing we can measure with instruments; it's all a matter of thinking and feeling -- and different people will think and feel differently.

This does not mean that in specific cases, your answer cannot be obvious to you (as in the case of your fire example). It's just that any moral position is true or false only with respect to the observer, not the whole universe. Kind of like statements about velocities.

This also doesn't mean you can't say 'C is immoral', and be right. It just means that you'd only be right in your frame of reference, and not necessarily in C's, or somebody else's. I, for instance, would admire somebody who went running into a fire for altruistic reasons -- but I would not hold it against C that he values himself more than some stranger.


You mean moral relativism? Now that's a slippery slope (jeez I hate that phrase). If person C was the one who lit the match, would you hold it against him? There has to be a frame of reference to be able to hold people accountable for their actions. To say that the morality of someone's actions is relative only to that person excuses anything that person does. That is why laws exist, whether you are talking about the law of man or the law of God. I've heard atheists say they have morals, but why? What purpose would morals serve if there is no God? If we are an accident of "nature" then morals serve no purpose. It won't matter who we've hurt in life if we cease to exist after death. Sure, we could fake goodwill to serve our interests, but to have morals? Morals have no use unless there truly is a God.

Nath wrote:If there is an all-powerful creature out there, deciding my fate, I'd like to observe it; measure it; see how it works; learn from it. This is no different from how I treat other interesting natural phenomena, particularly ones that affect me.


This is why you won't find an answer. You've reduced God to a "creature", a natural phenomenon, a mystical all-powerful bearded old man. How can you observe Him if that is what you are looking for? I'll go out on a limb and risk sounding like a religious nut (probably too late for that), but when you observe things in math, science, nature, etc., you are observing Him.

Nath wrote:By 'most', I mean 'all the ones I've come across'. It is possible that someone out there has a good, logical argument for religion, backed by the evidence.


There is a reason religious belief is called faith, but science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Even if you say that we evolved from monkeys, why can't it be God that allowed it to be so? If you say we came from a pool of primordial slime, why can't it be God's will that the conditions allowed this to be? When people look for evidence of God, they look for people walking on water. They forget that He willed the water to be. When they seek to disprove God and look into the darkness of space to find the beginning, they forget that He is the beginning, and He said "let there be light." Science can not prove God. It's not because God isn't real, it's because science seeks to explain what it observes, and to observe what it thinks to be true of nature. But God isn't of nature, God is through whom nature came to be. That's what Christianity, Judaism, Muslimism (is that a word?), etc. are, a relationship with the one through whom all things came. If you approach Him looking for evidence, you'll be disappointed, but if you approach Him looking for answers, you might find them.

[/end religious nut rant]

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:21 am UTC

Mancho wrote:You mean moral relativism? Now that's a slippery slope (jeez I hate that phrase). If person C was the one who lit the match, would you hold it against him? There has to be a frame of reference to be able to hold people accountable for their actions. To say that the morality of someone's actions is relative only to that person excuses anything that person does. That is why laws exist, whether you are talking about the law of man or the law of God. I've heard atheists say they have morals, but why?

For the same reasons that atheists have any other kinds of preferences. I prefer things I consider morally good to things I consider bad just as I prefer peanut butter to marmite.

Moral relativism might be a slippery slope, but that doesn't make the subjective nature of morality any less true. We can't decide what's true or not based on convenience or preference.

Mancho wrote:This is why you won't find an answer. You've reduced God to a "creature", a natural phenomenon, a mystical all-powerful bearded old man. How can you observe Him if that is what you are looking for? I'll go out on a limb and risk sounding like a religious nut (probably too late for that), but when you observe things in math, science, nature, etc., you are observing Him.

That sounds profound, but I'm not sure what it means. How does the observation that 2+2=4 imply the existence of an all-powerful creator?

Mancho wrote:There is a reason religious belief is called faith, but science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Even if you say that we evolved from monkeys, why can't it be God that allowed it to be so? If you say we came from a pool of primordial slime, why can't it be God's will that the conditions allowed this to be? When people look for evidence of God, they look for people walking on water. They forget that He willed the water to be. When they seek to disprove God and look into the darkness of space to find the beginning, they forget that He is the beginning, and He said "let there be light." Science can not prove God. It's not because God isn't real, it's because science seeks to explain what it observes, and to observe what it thinks to be true of nature. But God isn't of nature, God is through whom nature came to be. That's what Christianity, Judaism, Muslimism (is that a word?), etc. are, a relationship with the one through whom all things came. If you approach Him looking for evidence, you'll be disappointed, but if you approach Him looking for answers, you might find them.

Perhaps god willed water into existence. I can consider that possibility. Can you consider the possibility that god did not will water into existence -- and, in fact, does not exist? What makes you think the latter possibility is less likely than the former?

It's possible that there's an all-powerful creature out there who greatly affects us, but hides the evidence of his existence. But if this is so, how do you know about him? Faith. And where did you get this faith? Well, I can't speak for you personally, but most people get their faith from whatever they were taught as children, or whatever gives them comfort. So it is possible that you are right, but the reasons for your beliefs are still grounded in the irrational weaknesses of human beings; weaknesses that frequently lead us believe things that are not true. If you are right, it is by sheer chance. Not because of evidence, and not because of faith.

Many people speak of faith as if it were a virtue. Faith is no more or less than belief without evidence. I don't see anything desirable or virtuous about this. I see no virtue in believing that the 1024th digit of pi is '7' without looking it up, and I see no virtue in religious faith, either.

(And I believe the word you are looking for is 'Islam'.)

Rereading this post, it seems kind of abrasive. Apologies if this is so. It's late; I might come back and tone it down later.

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Re: Religion

Postby cypherspace » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:28 am UTC

I've heard atheists say they have morals, but why? What purpose would morals serve if there is no God? If we are an accident of "nature" then morals serve no purpose. It won't matter who we've hurt in life if we cease to exist after death. Sure, we could fake goodwill to serve our interests, but to have morals? Morals have no use unless there truly is a God.

You say it won't matter - it'll matter to that other person, won't it? Why would I want to hurt other people? My morals come from my relationships with other people and how I want to treat them. To say there's no use in them is utter rubbish. There is no fundamental standard, that is true, but "no use"? How about improving the only life that anyone has?

What I find so incredible about this statement is that it implies that without a God, you would not have any problem hurting or killing others to improve your own life. Do you think that is really so?
"It was like five in the morning and he said he'd show me his hamster"

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Re: Religion

Postby Mancho » Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:27 pm UTC

cypherspace wrote:You say it won't matter - it'll matter to that other person, won't it? Why would I want to hurt other people? My morals come from my relationships with other people and how I want to treat them. To say there's no use in them is utter rubbish. There is no fundamental standard, that is true, but "no use"? How about improving the only life that anyone has?

What I find so incredible about this statement is that it implies that without a God, you would not have any problem hurting or killing others to improve your own life. Do you think that is really so?


I don't think that. I've oversimplified it a bit, but the point was, if there is no God, why should anyone care how they treat others? What purpose do morals serve? Why improve your life if it has no consequence?

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Re: Religion

Postby oxoiron » Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:47 pm UTC

Mancho wrote:I've oversimplified it a bit, but the point was, if there is no God, why should anyone care how they treat others?
It's called 'empathy'. You can argue about why we feel empathy, but for some reason, the majority of people are able to put themselves in others' shoes to some degree.
"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect)."-- Mark Twain
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Re: Religion

Postby Mancho » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:10 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
For the same reasons that atheists have any other kinds of preferences. I prefer things I consider morally good to things I consider bad just as I prefer peanut butter to marmite.

Moral relativism might be a slippery slope, but that doesn't make the subjective nature of morality any less true. We can't decide what's true or not based on convenience or preference.


Point taken, but if morality is subjective, then we are in no position to judge anything that anyone does. I don't know if that supports my argument or not, but I think that was where I was going with it.

Nath wrote:That sounds profound, but I'm not sure what it means. How does the observation that 2+2=4 imply the existence of an all-powerful creator?

It doesn't. I only meant that you only observe 2+2=4 because God made it so that was true.

Nath wrote:Perhaps god willed water into existence. I can consider that possibility. Can you consider the possibility that god did not will water into existence -- and, in fact, does not exist? What makes you think the latter possibility is less likely than the former?

It's possible that there's an all-powerful creature out there who greatly affects us, but hides the evidence of his existence. But if this is so, how do you know about him? Faith. And where did you get this faith? Well, I can't speak for you personally, but most people get their faith from whatever they were taught as children, or whatever gives them comfort. So it is possible that you are right, but the reasons for your beliefs are still grounded in the irrational weaknesses of human beings; weaknesses that frequently lead us believe things that are not true. If you are right, it is by sheer chance. Not because of evidence, and not because of faith.

Many people speak of faith as if it were a virtue. Faith is no more or less than belief without evidence. I don't see anything desirable or virtuous about this. I see no virtue in believing that the 1024th digit of pi is '7' without looking it up, and I see no virtue in religious faith, either.


It is entirely possible that God doesn't exist. I acknowledge that. Do I believe that? No. How do I know about him? By my existence. By how beautifully complicated everything is. I love how science shows us how things work, and in learning those things we discover that we still have so much to learn. Does this mean there is a God. No. By I take it as a matter of faith that there is. I didn't learn my faith as a child, I learned it as a consequence of observation of nature and the progression of my life. Is it grounded in weakness? I don't think so. I think it's a willingness to accept that we will never know everything, and making the choice one way or the other. We are an accident, or we are God's children. Either choice is an act of faith. Faith is not a virtue.
Nath wrote:(And I believe the word you are looking for is 'Islam'.)

Rereading this post, it seems kind of abrasive. Apologies if this is so. It's late; I might come back and tone it down later.


Islam. Now I feel stupid. I knew I wasn't putting the right word. It was late. Oh well. And no, not abrasive at all. Your point of view is well taken.

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Re: Religion

Postby Quixotess » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

Mancho wrote:I don't think that. I've oversimplified it a bit, but the point was, if there is no God, why should anyone care how they treat others? What purpose do morals serve? Why improve your life if it has no consequence?

...It has the consequence...of improving your life?

Generally, I have found that you reap what you sow. Example: I have seven immediate managers at my work. (It's a big store.) Six of them are awesome. One is a total asshole. He's rude, and he puts people down constantly, making personal insults for trivial mistakes. As a result, he suffers--everyone avoids him, so he always has to bag his own groceries, find out important information by accident, and so on. The respect of your community has significant effects on your life.

Also, having spent some time in the pacifism thread, I can tell you that if you hit someone there is a substantial risk that they are the kind of person who will hit you back.
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Re: Religion

Postby Mancho » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:16 pm UTC

oxoiron wrote:It's called 'empathy'. You can argue about why we feel empathy, but for some reason, the majority of people are able to put themselves in others' shoes to some degree.


You can call it 'empathy', or 'morality', or 'Oh hell! I just took a dump in my pants!' The name for it is irrelevant. You didn't answer the question. If there is no God, what purpose does it serve?

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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:18 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:Generally, I have found that you reap what you sow. Example: I have seven immediate managers at my work. (It's a big store.) Six of them are awesome. One is a total asshole. He's rude, and he puts people down constantly, making personal insults for trivial mistakes. As a result, he suffers--everyone avoids him, so he always has to bag his own groceries, find out important information by accident, and so on. The respect of your community has significant effects on your life.

Also, having spent some time in the pacifism thread, I can tell you that if you hit someone there is a substantial risk that they are the kind of person who will hit you back.


Which brings up to the Socratic idea of the man with the invisible ring, or the tyrant. Essentially, if you believe in a naturalistic universe with no cause or reward, you're going to do what makes your life better. Murder, theft, deceit -- there's nothing inherently wrong with them; you just choose not to do them because other people will treat you poorly if you do.
So, if you bring your community with you and are happy with your position with respect to them, and you know you're stronger than others, this idea shouldn't stop you from hurting outsiders.
Specifically, this viewpoint would not in any sense explain why Europeans were wrong to drive out, hurt, or kill the Indians. They aren't part of our communities, they can't effectively fight back, and our lives will be better if we take the land they're on and use it for a CIVILIZED society. So, in the absence of personal or societal negative consequences that actually matter to us, do you have any other reason why we should respect these outsiders?

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Re: Religion

Postby Mancho » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:28 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:...It has the consequence...of improving your life?

Generally, I have found that you reap what you sow. Example: I have seven immediate managers at my work. (It's a big store.) Six of them are awesome. One is a total asshole. He's rude, and he puts people down constantly, making personal insults for trivial mistakes. As a result, he suffers--everyone avoids him, so he always has to bag his own groceries, find out important information by accident, and so on. The respect of your community has significant effects on your life.

Now I feel like I'm beating a dead horse (I'm just full of these stupid sayings). Morals may or may not improve your life. That depends on your beliefs to some extent, but that is neither here nor there. There are many awful people who by many measures have/had a tremendous quality of life, but are total ass-hats. (Saddam Hussein anyone?) Without consequences, it doesn't really matter, does it?

Quixotess wrote:Also, having spent some time in the pacifism thread, I can tell you that if you hit someone there is a substantial risk that they are the kind of person who will hit you back.


Ha! So true!

Edit: Looks like AvalonXQ made a similar, but more eloquent, point

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Re: Religion

Postby Quixotess » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:10 pm UTC

If you're only being moral because you believe a being tells you you must and will reward you for it, then I see those morals as arbitrary: they don't have any intrinsic worth except that the being tells you to do it.

If, on the other hand, the morals do have intrinsic worth, then why do we need to believe in God in order to understand them or follow them? Perhaps I was misleading when I implied that atheists are moral because we think we'll get something out of it. Clearly there are some atheists, just as there are some theists, who will behave that way. Actually, given the whole "if there's no heaven then there's no point in being moral" seems like just as much of a "we'll get something out of it" philosophy as the one I pointed out. Only difference is, your reward is delayed and my reward is immediate.

But there are also some of us who will do these things because we think they have intrinsic worth, and don't need to get anything out of it, either a good afterlive or a you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" kind of thing.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:19 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:If you're only being moral because you believe a being tells you you must and will reward you for it, then I see those morals as arbitrary: they don't have any intrinsic worth except that the being tells you to do it.

If, on the other hand, the morals do have intrinsic worth, then why do we need to believe in God in order to understand them or follow them? Perhaps I was misleading when I implied that atheists are moral because we think we'll get something out of it. Clearly there are some atheists, just as there are some theists, who will behave that way. Actually, given the whole "if there's no heaven then there's no point in being moral" seems like just as much of a "we'll get something out of it" philosophy as the one I pointed out. Only difference is, your reward is delayed and my reward is immediate.

But there are also some of us who will do these things because we think they have intrinsic worth, and don't need to get anything out of it, either a good afterlive or a you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" kind of thing.


What is the basis of "intrinsic worth"? If you don't believe in a supernatural world, in spiritual metaphysics, or in a higher plane of existence, how can anything be said to have intrinsic value outside of obvious empirical result?
In other words, if you don't believe in anything other than the natural world, how can things have moral worth disconnected from their effects on the natural world?
To answer the arguments being used against the Christians who are "also just trying to get something out of it": nope. I'm moral because I believe that morality has intrinsic spiritual significance, and that the spiritual world is connected to this one. It's far more complicated than that -- I can throw in words like "objectively right", "good for me", "loving", "completing my designed purpose", etc. Because it's not just about a being who pops up and says "This is right; this is wrong." It's about an entire metaphysical framework that overlies the world.
You don't believe in any of that. So, I'll ask it again -- how can you allocate value outside of empiricism if there IS nothing outside of empiricism?

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Re: Religion

Postby Kaiyas » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:51 pm UTC

AvalonXQ wrote:
Quixotess wrote:If you're only being moral because you believe a being tells you you must and will reward you for it, then I see those morals as arbitrary: they don't have any intrinsic worth except that the being tells you to do it.

If, on the other hand, the morals do have intrinsic worth, then why do we need to believe in God in order to understand them or follow them? Perhaps I was misleading when I implied that atheists are moral because we think we'll get something out of it. Clearly there are some atheists, just as there are some theists, who will behave that way. Actually, given the whole "if there's no heaven then there's no point in being moral" seems like just as much of a "we'll get something out of it" philosophy as the one I pointed out. Only difference is, your reward is delayed and my reward is immediate.

But there are also some of us who will do these things because we think they have intrinsic worth, and don't need to get anything out of it, either a good afterlive or a you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" kind of thing.


What is the basis of "intrinsic worth"? If you don't believe in a supernatural world, in spiritual metaphysics, or in a higher plane of existence, how can anything be said to have intrinsic value outside of obvious empirical result?
In other words, if you don't believe in anything other than the natural world, how can things have moral worth disconnected from their effects on the natural world?
To answer the arguments being used against the Christians who are "also just trying to get something out of it": nope. I'm moral because I believe that morality has intrinsic spiritual significance, and that the spiritual world is connected to this one. It's far more complicated than that -- I can throw in words like "objectively right", "good for me", "loving", "completing my designed purpose", etc. Because it's not just about a being who pops up and says "This is right; this is wrong." It's about an entire metaphysical framework that overlies the world.
You don't believe in any of that. So, I'll ask it again -- how can you allocate value outside of empiricism if there IS nothing outside of empiricism?

Because it isn't outside empricism. Benevolence can benefit the benefactor as much as the beneficiary. (Try saying that three times fast. :? ) From a pure gain/loss perspective, the most common example would be:

Give gift
Foster friendship
Increase influence

Or, if your more altruistic

Give gift
Feel warm and fuzzy inside
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:55 pm UTC

Kaiyas wrote:Benevolence can benefit the benefactor as much as the beneficiary. (Try saying that three times fast. :? ) From a pure gain/loss perspective, the most common example would be:

Give gift
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I addressed this in my last post to Quixotess. In these circumstances, then, there is nothing morally wrong with what the Europeans did to the Indians. They harmed outsiders so their own society could flourish. In so doing, they created a society where moral actions function to produce these goods (emotional and social) that we care about. Since the Indians were in the way of creating these goods, and the Europeans didn't care how the Indians felt, these empirical reasons don't apply.
Quixotess's next response was an assertion that, in the ABSENCE of empirical benefit, moral actions can have inherent benefit. That's what I then argued against.

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Re: Religion

Postby Quixotess » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:58 pm UTC

Um...what's wrong with a moral system that judges deeds based on their effect on the world? Earlier I understood your argument to be "atheists do moral things because of what's in it for them personally." Now it's "atheists to moral things because of what's in it for everyone."

And if something is objectively right, it can be objectively right with or without a god. *shrug* If the world's leading mathematicians wrote a book detailing everything we know about mathematics, it wouldn't be right just because it was in their book.

I could go for all of your words except "my designed purpose." Your other phrases, as I see it, do not require religion in order for them to apply.

I too believe that morality has intrinsic significance. Jesus isn't necessary for me to understand that.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:04 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:And if something is objectively right, it can be objectively right with or without a god.


That's like saying, "If gravity is objectively right, it can be objectively right without the Sun". And then wondering why your models of the solar system don't correctly predict where the planets go.
Morality is defined according to the nature of spiritual reality. Without that spiritual reality, your morality is based on utilitarianism (which doesn't work) or humanistic selfishness (which doesn't work) or your own preferences (which aren't objective). If you don't accept God, your basic understanding of the purpose of human beings and how we should behave is missing a core component. Just because morality isn't arbitrarily determined by God doesn't mean you can get there without Him.

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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:12 pm UTC

Mancho wrote:Point taken, but if morality is subjective, then we are in no position to judge anything that anyone does. I don't know if that supports my argument or not, but I think that was where I was going with it.

Depends on what you mean by judge. If you mean 'evaluate the moral consequences', then I can still judge other peoples' actions, but only with respect to my own sense of morality. In other words, I can tell you whether any given action is right or wrong, but only from my point of view.

If you mean that we shouldn't hold peoples' actions against them because morality is subjective, then I actually agree. It makes me cringe when I hear about people demanding acts of cruelty in the name of justice. The only purpose of law enforcement should be to minimize future violations of peoples' rights.

Mancho wrote:It doesn't. I only meant that you only observe 2+2=4 because God made it so that was true.

Fair enough. This isn't really an argument; just an assertion.

Mancho wrote:It is entirely possible that God doesn't exist. I acknowledge that. Do I believe that? No. How do I know about him? By my existence. By how beautifully complicated everything is. I love how science shows us how things work, and in learning those things we discover that we still have so much to learn. Does this mean there is a God. No. By I take it as a matter of faith that there is. I didn't learn my faith as a child, I learned it as a consequence of observation of nature and the progression of my life. Is it grounded in weakness? I don't think so. I think it's a willingness to accept that we will never know everything, and making the choice one way or the other. We are an accident, or we are God's children. Either choice is an act of faith.

How about neither choice? If you don't know something, it makes no sense to just 'pick one'. (If you're curious about why I think so, there was a longer discussion about this a few pages ago.)

Mancho wrote:You can call it 'empathy', or 'morality', or 'Oh hell! I just took a dump in my pants!' The name for it is irrelevant. You didn't answer the question. If there is no God, what purpose does it serve?

Empathy is not synonymous with morality. Empathy refers to our ability to share the emotions of those around us. When we see someone suffering, we suffer to some extent. When we see someone happy, we are a little happier. So, it is natural that we try to do things that make people happy rather than sad. There's no deeper purpose or meaning, but it's still a wonderful thing.

AvalonXQ wrote:You don't believe in any of that. So, I'll ask it again -- how can you allocate value outside of empiricism if there IS nothing outside of empiricism?

I allocate value, yes, but not outside of empiricism. I value goodness and peanut butter because I observe that they make me happy. I disapprove of murder and marmite because I observe that they make me unhappy. 'Value' is just my word for 'things that I approve of'.

AvalonXQ wrote:I addressed this in my last post to Quixotess. In these circumstances, then, there is nothing morally wrong with what the Europeans did to the Indians.

Nothing morally wrong with respect to their moral system, yes. Morally terrible with respect to my moral system. Their actions make me feel unfuzzy, so I call them 'wrong'.

AvalonXQ wrote:Quixotess's next response was an assertion that, in the ABSENCE of empirical benefit, moral actions can have inherent benefit. That's what I then argued against.

What do we mean by 'inherent' here?

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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:28 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
AvalonXQ wrote:Quixotess's next response was an assertion that, in the ABSENCE of empirical benefit, moral actions can have inherent benefit. That's what I then argued against.

What do we mean by 'inherent' here?

That's a really good question. I don't see how "inherent value" works in the absence of the supernatural. Perhaps Quixotess can explain what she meant by "inherent"?

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Re: Religion

Postby Quixotess » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:02 pm UTC

I believe that human suffering is inherently wrong, as in wrongness is an essential attribute of suffering. Not because of spirituality. Because suffering is wrong in the here and now. If you hit someone, she feels pain right now.
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:09 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:I believe that human suffering is inherently wrong, as in wrongness is an essential attribute of suffering. Not because of spirituality. Because suffering is wrong in the here and now. If you hit someone, she feels pain right now.


So, is it the nociception specifically that is wrong?
How about if I can kill her painlessly? Still wrong?

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Re: Religion

Postby Quixotess » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:21 pm UTC

Suffering. Not just physical pain.

To "suffering is bad" I should probably also add "happiness is good."
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Re: Religion

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:28 pm UTC

Two questions:
1) WHY is suffering bad and happiness good?
2) Is this quantifiable and universal? Can we measure happiness and pain and make trade-offs, and is happiness and pain for every "person" measured the same way?


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