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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

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tim

BroKen,

Before this thread turns into another bitch fest with you know who, I like to ask one question if I may.

Where do you think an atheist gets his/her standards for morality, ethics, justice, love, even beauty? Just curious.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m not looking for a long answer or a debate. I’ve always stayed out of these types of threads because I don’t feel the need to defend my atheism.

BroKen

tim,

Thanks so much for the question and the tone in which you present it.

It is a good question. You asked for a short answer. Here it is: Prevenient Grace.

salvage

>He thinks science demonstrates that we don’t need God.

Then your friend doesn't understand science.

"need" is not the issue, it is immaterial to the question of gods and their existence.

Science explains and categorizes nature through a strict methodology, it makes no comment on what it can't prove through that methodology.

But back to "need". People need gods because life is scary, confusing, brutal and unfair, the idea that in the end there is some all powerful and wise arbiter who will put it all right (only after we die pointlessly enough) is comforting and helps people make it through the slog that existing can sometimes be.

I suspect that's why religious types tend to live longer than us atheists, stress is a killer and what better stress relief that an omnipotent big brother who will give you your hearts desire if you follow its arbitrary rules?

What we do need is the truth and the Judeo-Christian mythology is as true as the Greek, Roman, Aztec, Zulu and other primitive religions; that is not very.

Truth splits atoms, cure small pox, puts mankind on moons, studies billion year old stars, divines the secrets of a bat's radar, discovers life at the bottom of the ocean and the countless other strange mysteries of existence.

Myths do not, they just make crap up that sounds good (if you don't look too closely) so when we talk about needs science wins every single time, we need science, religion not so much.

Well some of us don't need it.

Morgan K Freeberg

Truth splits atoms, cure small pox, puts mankind on moons, studies billion year old stars, divines the secrets of a bat's radar, discovers life at the bottom of the ocean and the countless other strange mysteries of existence.

Myths do not, they just make crap up that sounds good (if you don't look too closely) so when we talk about needs science wins every single time, we need science, religion not so much.

Well, if you acccept that the human potential for optimism and stamina is inherently limited, then this cannot possibly be the case. This thing you call "myth" has inspired people throughout the ages to soldier on, when faced with challenges we simply don't have to face nowadays.

War and disease wiping out seven of your ten children...a third or fourth straight year with little rain, poor soil, and a stingy, life-threateningly skimpy harvest...a devastating sickness striking animals which were intended for burden, slaughter, stud, or some combination of those...

These are things that made spiritual health more important. Nowadays that is not the case. And so, whether or not there is a God, depends not so much on evidence -- but upon whether we can afford to do without Him.

No matter which way your leanings go, I think most people would agree that's not a healthy way to puzzle these things out.

But I know, you have a witty comeback for everything...

Well some of us don't need it.

Now. In the age of delivered, purified water, satellite television, and iPods. When you can afford to do without it.

I do have one hypothetical question for you, and some residual hope that you'll provide some insight in that one split second before I know you'll yank it down into the ooze of silliness:

This age of extreme, ultra-pasteurized comfort is just a handful of years old. The quest for truth, on the other hand...the refinement of the thinking process, by which man endeavors to figure out what must be, based on what's known...it's hundreds of years old. If the greatest hostility to the concept of God, is shown by this thing you call "truth," as you say -- rather than this ultra-draconian safety and comfort, which is my assertion -- isn't it a little strange that this atheist fad is cresting out in 2005-2008 AD, rather than during the last couple centuries BC? Or perhaps during the Renaissance? It seems mankind is most secular when he desires to be comfortable, rather than when he desires to pursue truth.

Wonder what your thoughts are about that.

Rick
It is a good question. You asked for a short answer. Here it is: Prevenient Grace.

Aight Ken... allow me to jump in quickly and ask that you explain yourself for the non-seminary trained, non theological who might be reading.

BroKen

Prevenient means "coming before, or preceding." It refers to that grace of God which enables a person, dead in sin, to respond to God. Dead folks cannot respond without help.

I am using it more broadly to refer to all the grace of God which is showered down upon humanity whether we acknowledge its Source or not. "He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust." I would include beautiful sunsets and mountain streams, the touch of a lover's hand, a baby's laugh, good roads and telecommunications, Human Rights (which some of us believe are self-evidently endowed by a Creator) and a general standard of behavior (C. S. Lewis called it "the Tao" see his The Abolition of Man.)

Rick

Nicely done Ken... one of the things the "churched" need to do is quit sounding so damned churchy.

Thanks.

Leslie

Just read this over at Discovery Magazine and somehow got me thinking about the strange and seemingly innate aspect of morality:

“We never really see time,” he says. “We see only clocks. If you say this object moves, what you really mean is that this object is here when the hand of your clock is here, and so on. We say we measure time with clocks, but we see only the hands of the clocks, not time itself. And the hands of a clock are a physical variable like any other. So in a sense we cheat because what we really observe are physical variables as a function of other physical variables, but we represent that as if everything is evolving in time."

Perhaps our morality is the hands of the clock.

Leslie

Sorry, forgot the link:

Here it is

salvage

>Well, if you acccept that the human potential for optimism and stamina is inherently limited, then this cannot possibly be the case

I do not, if we aren’t eaten by a rouge black hole or kill ourselves we will one day kick the universe’s ass.

In the Greek myth of Prometheus the reason why Zeus was so pissed that he gave man fire was because Zeus knew that the flame was the first step in mankind eventually storming the walls of Olympus. Prometheus’ real crime was to start the end of the gods. Even back then, the Greeks who made up that story knew on some level that we were going to be the gods, that we were going to work miracles and they were right, we have and we’re just getting started.

Wait till we crack the quantum stuff, then you're going to see, as Doc Brown put it, some serious shit.

>This thing you call "myth" has inspired people throughout the ages to soldier on, when faced with challenges we simply don't have to face nowadays.

Sure and it’s destroyed other people. Once again myths, religion all that stuff is neither good nor bad, it’s what we do with it.

I myself am inspired by real people and events, for instance when I’m working out and I feel like I have nothing left I think about the Rangers that climbed the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in the Normandy invasion. They scaled a sheer wall with Nazis raining fire down on them in what at first must have looked like a duck shoot to the Germans, but the Rangers kept on going, while their buddies were being cut down they kept climbing until they won the battle. Good thing too, their mission was to silence some guns that would have made mincemeat out of the troops landing on the beach. If they could do that surly I can squeeze out another five minutes on the elliptical machine at peak speed.

We do not need myths to inspire; there is real greatness all around us.

>And so, whether or not there is a God, depends not so much on evidence -- but upon whether we can afford to do without Him.

We can, we don’t need gods, they’re crutches.

>No matter which way your leanings go, I think most people would agree that's not a healthy way to puzzle these things out.

No, they wouldn’t. There is no unhealthy way to puzzle things out, what is unhealthy is to leave the puzzle be.

>It seems mankind is most secular when he desires to be comfortable, rather than when he desires to pursue truth.

An interesting question and you're quite right, our comfort (and oh man are we ever, people have no idea how good we have it in North America) has risen in tandem with science and technology. We use our knowledge to generate wealth and that in turn has raised our standards of living and when life is better we stop praying to gods to make it so. The more misery you have the more religion you need because religion provides hope and people in the worst places need it.

But again that has nothing to do with it being true or not, it merely offers a theory as to why some people embrace what is really a very silly thing.

Put it this way, you know that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa finds out Jebediah Springfield, the town’s founder’s terrible secret? That he was an evil pirate that tried to kill George Washington? She’s about to tell the town by showing irrefutable evidence when she looks around and she sees how the myth of Jebediah inspires the citizens of Springfield to be better people. She then decides that the myth is more valuable than the truth and lets the sleeping dog lie.

I hate that episode.

If I were Lisa I would have told everyone the truth and demanded that they look to themselves or other true heroes for inspiration. To seek goodness and the motivation to be good in mendacity is to declare that there isn’t any real decency to be found and that is nauseatingly wrong.

BroKen

Good point, Rick. I'll work on it. But I really don't think the problem is with the language but with sounding "damned" churchy.

Salvage, I admire your optimism! So, we are going to "kick the universe's ass." Then what?

Seems to me that when we gain powers you describe, we tend to kick each other's ass.

Have you ever read The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis that I mention in the other comment? I think of it because he begins one chapter quoting a friend who says something like, "Man's got nature licked." It is quite poignant because his friend is dying as he says that. It is a short read. I would be interested in your critique of it.

salvage

>Salvage, I admire your optimism! So, we are going to "kick the universe's ass." Then what?

Who knows? New universes? Dimensions? Laurel resting?

>Seems to me that when we gain powers you describe, we tend to kick each other's ass.

We sure do but we tend to do so much better when we're not. Western Democracy has had an amazing run or prosperity and growth since WWII because of our relative peace.

>Have you ever read The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

I haven't but I'll check it out.

Nature will always in the end beat us as individuals of course but as a species the only ones who can stop us is ourselves.

Just like the ancient Greeks knew that one day we'd be burning Zeus out of his mountain I know we're going to be leaving this planet and setting up Starbucks all over the galaxy.

Think about this if you doubt it, the time it took Columbus longer to get to America than it took America to get to the moon.

Time, imagination, intelligence and opposable thumbs is a pretty hard combination to keep down.

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1190554688

Wow! i am seriously thinking here about reading the c.s. lewis book mentioned above! as a science fan and a fan of Grace i am moved to tears about the above description-I am using it more broadly to refer to all the grace of God which is showered down upon humanity whether we acknowledge its Source or not. "He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust." I would include beautiful sunsets and mountain streams, the touch of a lover's hand, a baby's laugh, thanks to the person who also helped the depth of the robert frost poem be understood! jkw

BroKen

Thank you, Kim, for your kind and encouraging words. BTW, Salvage never did respond to the request for a critique of The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. I would be interested to hear yours.

Carrie Bell

Interesting the conversation on atheism versus belief in God. For me personally, that's like saying, "Hm, am I alive, or am I not? Well, I know I am, so it's senseless to debate it." But then again, that's because, for me, I KNOW! All nature denotes there is a God, but one can't "win the argument" on that one. I personally have had too many answers to prayers and spiritual experiences to believe otherwise, not to mention the burning in my heart that is a sure knowledge for me, and I know many others who feel likewise. I know we lived with our Heavenly Father before we came here (yes, all of us), that we are all His spirit children, and that this life is a chance to be tested to see what we're really made of, with a veil over our minds of our life before this, and to gain a physical body to experience and learn and be tested in ways that a spirit body can't and without the knowledge of our former existence. I know that one day we will all return to our Heavenly Father and give an accounting to Him of our lives, and we will be judged by what we do with what we know. Our Heavenly Father is far more merciful and kind and understanding than many give Him credit for. I know that our Heavenly Father loves us, that He is mindful of us, that He wants to hear from us, and that all we have to do to know He is, is to TALK to Him and ask Him, and He'll show Himself to us if we aren't closeminded. You can't PROVE or DISPROVE anything. Yes, you have to take it on faith, but once you plant the seed, so to speak, it can begin to grow and enlarge your understanding. I just know. No debate. There is a God. He is the father of our spirit bodies. He knows us and loves us. Whether you believe in Him or not is beside the point.

Eric Heaps

It's nice to see the LDS perspective on the current subject. I am also LDS and agree with Carrie's presentation of the method one should use to prove to one's self (or to be proven) the existence of God. Let's not stray too far from the heart of the discussion, and since you already know the religion of both Carrie and I, there's no shame in referring to one of the Church's former leaders and internationally recognized scientist of his day: Dr. James E. Talmage (much of whose correlatory thoughts on the present arguement support those of another Church leader and also internationally recognized scientist, Dr. John A. Widstoe.)

In Talmage's "The Articles of Faith," he suggests that "...all truth, being eternal, is superior to reason in the sense of being manifest to reason, and not a creation of reason; nevertheless truths are to be estimated and compared by the exercise of reason."

I ask, is there any harm in this kind of thinking? If it challenges the pride of both Christian and Atheist, are we strong enough, mature and civil enough, reasonable or logical enough to surrender that pride and consider the unknown, as Galileo did in the face of great oppression. I'm suggesting that science will continue to beg us answers to great questions so long as we answer them, but is our life too short, too precious to abandon questions of faith? Furthermore, is it impossible for these questions to be answered collectively, or is it possible that they cooperate?

Finally I ask, what is it of value that impresses us to be so partial to one or the other? Am I willing to objectively pursue science, understanding the possibility that I may be neglecting spiritual laws? Can I cling to my faith without consideration of marvelous scientific findings, and even the possibility that my faith is unfounded? To me it's a choice. One day I will die. What will I do with the time that I have on this earth? As for me, I'm not ashamed to say that I'll spend my days trying to be happy and not to interfere with the happiness of others. If this peaceful method is conducive to progress on the part of both science and religion or theology, would I be out of line in inviting those who have commented on this page to do the same?

BroKen

Mr. Heaps, thank you for stopping by and posting a comment. I am not familiar with the theologian and scientist you mention. I am also not really familiar with the "LDS perspective" nor am I sure what you mean by "current subject". Existence of God? Poetry by Robert Frost?

Anyway, as to the relationship between faith and reason, I am sure one should have a reasonable faith. I think it is problematic to doubt reason. Without reason, we are doomed. In that scenario absolutely anything could be true. No, we must stand with reason. But, of course, we often forget that stance itself requires a step of faith. So, yes, faith is superior to reason and there is truth beyond reason. But truth is never unreasonable. I don't know if that makes sense, but it would if I could explain it better.

You hint at a conflict between faith and science. I'll tell you that I am convinced that there are two realms of revelation. General revelation refers to nature and what we can learn about God from His creation. "The heavens are declaring the glory of God." It speaks of a God that is powerful and beautiful. (But parts of creation make one wonder if the Creator is really good.) Special revelation of the scriptures tells of a God that is loving and good. (And that the reason parts of creation are bad is because it is in rebellion against God.) Since both realms of revelation have the same source, they cannot be in conflict. If there is an apparent conflict between the two realms, then someone has made a faulty interpretation in one or the other or both. But reason is vital for making any interpretation of either realm.

Again, thanks for your comment. God bless.

Rick

BroKen... I believe the LDS perspective referred to here is the Latter Day Saints perspective... also known as Mormons...

Could be wrong but that's my guess...

BroKen

I think you are right, RIck. But I'm still not sure what that is in this case.

Eric Heaps

I think the thread indicates a conflict between an atheist and a christian regarding the existence of God and makes reference to Frost's poetry. The "LDS perspective" is not an official term, just one I chose, but refers to accepted doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or as identified by Rick, the Mormons. In this case, the LDS perspective might be that although a conflict is apparent in this converstaion, it might be beneficial to abandon that conflict and view the subject together and the fruits of such a practice will reveal its benefit.

As for your explanation of the relationship between faith and reason, you explained yourself perfectly and seem to agree with what Talmage said. Truth is never unreasonable. At some point biblical miracles will be as commonly understood as they are read. In the same section of the book mentioned in my previous comment, Talmage explains the term "theology" and shows that if theology is a worthy endeavor, those who study it will quickly find that it is relative to all other studies with the objective of understanding God, his creations, and our relation to Him.

Finally, I'm interested in what you said here, "...a God that is powerful and beautiful. (But parts of creation make one wonder if the Creator is really good.)" I don't know if you intended for that part in parenthesis to be a conversation in itself, but to me, it's one of the most important questions anyone could ever ask. I'm at work though and don't have time to explain. Hopefully I helped with your questions though.

BroKen

Thanks again, Mr. Heaps, for your clarification. But I'm still not sure what you mean when you say, "it might be beneficial to abandon that conflict and view the subject together." I don't see how it is possible to "abandon the conflict" between atheism and theism. I mean, they are logically contradictory. Either God exists or He does not. That is the conflict. Can you explain how to abandon it? But I am all for viewing the subject together since that is what we were doing the the thread even though Salvage and I are not that close.

To your interest in my parenthetical comment, yes, it is worth many conversations. I believe "the problem of evil" is the one reasonable excuse for atheism. I think the problem is solved in scripture, but an honest seeker might still have trouble there.

Once again, thanks for you comments and perspective.

Telephone Recording Devices

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