Putting the cart before the resurrected horse

August 6, 2008 at 10:15 am 167 comments

I’ve heard Christians say that what one must do is look at the life of Jesus, and decide what you make of him. This is the basis of Alpha Courses and, in my experience, it’s the way many Christians approach Christian apologetics or evangelism. ‘What do you think Jesus meant when he said x?’ ‘What did it mean for the Jews when y happened?’ ‘Wasn’t the love shown by x to y a perfect sacrifice as prophesied in z?’ etc etc.

The belief is that the Bible, in this case, is reliable reportage – miraculously accurate and by its very nature irrefutable. Christians believe there is enough evidence to decide that water was turned to wine, dead men were raised and thousands of ready cooked fishes materialized from thin air. And furthermore, that there was no other important (perhaps more private) relevant statements made that were not reported in the book.

Surely the decision to believe this is at the very least a cognitive event. In the same way that I do not believe in ghosts (until convinced otherwise), I need to decide whether I accept the Bible / Koran (or 100s of other religious holy books) to be reliable. The tools I use to make this decision must be, for the most part, external to the stories/claims contained within the texts. The Koran making a statement that the Koran is true and I must accept that or go to hell, frankly is not very convincing. The same applies to other holy books. In fact, I could write one tomorrow, say something similar, and have just as much credibility.

However, once I have come to the decision that the Bible IS reliable, then its game over, you can consider me a Christian (same for Koran/Muslim). I propose that there is no one, of sane mind, alive on earth who accepts that the Bible is accurate in its reportage of what Jesus did and said… who still says he is not a Christian.

I state again, if you think the Bible is accurate and reliable, then there is no need to get involved in manipulative pleas like ‘Jesus loves you, just reach out and accept the gift, let him into your heart’. It’s irrelevant how ‘caring, wise and loving’ Jesus was. If he’s god, he’s god. Even if he’s a genocidal monster I’ll bow down since you convinced me at ‘accurate and reliable’. One does not need to meditate on the nature of Jesus and decide if you want to follow him – his nature is irrelevant to the quality of the reportage. Furthermore if you try to hear mystical voices in your head (or your heart!?), its very likely they will oblige.

So why do Christians not say this? Why are the Alpha Courses and sermons structured with questions such as: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die? How does God guide us?

Why? Because the logic would then be that redemption actually comes from accepting the Bible as accurate, rather than admitting you’re a sinner and that Jesus was the son of god etc etc.

Whether or not the Bible is reliable is a cognitive decision. How do we make cognitive decisions? – through analyzing the evidence. How do we make better decisions? Through application of our intellect and education. It’s obvious, but needs stating, that the better our intellect and education, the more likely we are to make correct analytical decisions. Therefore the smarter one is, the more likely they are to be a Christian? Hmmmmmm.

Christians will then insert the ‘faith’ word. However, any old faith won’t do. It needs to be faith in the ‘correct’ god. So unless people who have never heard of the bible are having Jesus-redemption narratives miraculously planted in their heads (which actually wouldn’t require any faith either) – we’re back again the reliability of the bible.

Fact is that the overwhelming majority (90% according to one statistic) of people on earth carry on with the world-view of their parents and they can’t ALL be correct. Anyone who holds the religious world view which is prevalent in their society needs to be ultra skeptical about it, and assure themselves that the tenets are objectively reliable – if they seek a better understanding of the world around us.

Humbly submitted,
- QuestionMonkey

Entry filed under: QuestionMonkey. Tags: , , , .

The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins Pan’s Labyrinth

167 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jim J  |  August 6, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Accepting Jesus as divine and the Bible as accurate is only the beginning of a long journey. From there, everything that is written in the Bible must be looked at in that light. And why shouldn’t we ask questions? Getting to know an infinite God isn’t a simple pursuit.

  • 2. The Nerd  |  August 6, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Excelent! This is something everyone should read that thinks “non-Christians are just rebelling from God”. That statement falsly assumes there is a definite God to rebel against, and that the person is fully aware of that fact. Keep up the good writing.

  • 3. Rover  |  August 6, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Something has been bothering me since last night during a discussion I had with the Apostate. I will concede that the De Cons have some excellent points. In general, you are more logical and articulate then most of the Christians who stop by, however, there is a good deal of what seems like intentional misquotes of the Bible. I will give examples:
    Jesus taught cannibalistic practices (the lords supper references)
    Jesus taught us to hate our parents (clearly a literary device)

    and I am sure I could mention many others. Is this done on purpose? This practice seems to detract from your credibility. I know that you don’t care what I or any other Christian thinks about your credibility, but if you are truly here for those who are struggling perhaps these types of tactics should be eliminated for intellectual honesty if nothing else.

  • 4. Rover  |  August 6, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    “misquotes” is the wrong word, but I think you get my point

  • 5. qmonkey  |  August 6, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Rover: i do think you make a reasonable point.

    my personal view is (as set out in this post), as soon as we concede that the bible is reliable reportage.. then any counter argument against Jesus is frankly silly.

    I personally don’t ‘miss understand’ the bible… or think it paints Jesus in a bad light… i just don’t accept it as being reliable… its not for me to make any comment on the nature of Jesus… may as well talk about King Arthur and Merlin.

  • 6. ubi dubium  |  August 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Rover

    …however, there is a good deal of what seems like intentional misquotes of the Bible. I will give examples:
    Jesus taught cannibalistic practices (the lords supper references)
    Jesus taught us to hate our parents (clearly a literary device)

    I’m not seeing what you mean here by intentional misquotes. Could it be perhaps that we are simply interpreting verses from the bible in a different way than you are?

    Like your examples:
    Cannibalistic practices – As was shown by the recent “crackergate” flap over at pharyngula, there are many many catholics who fervently believe that a cracker, when blessed by a priest, actually does become the literal “body of christ”. They sent death threats to a teenager for daring to take one of these crackers home with him instead of eating it. Your interpretation might not be “cannibalistic”, but theirs certainly is.

    “Hate” our parents – I don’t think it’s at all clear that this is a literary device. I looked this bit up in Luke in the KJV – it says “hate”. I also looked up in the “good news” version, and it doesn’t use that word. Perhaps one of the scholars here can let us know what the original Greek word was? But it does not seem to be part of a parable or metaphor – it seems like he was directly telling his followers to drop their attachments to everything and everybody else.

    (This is one of the difficulties I have with claims that the bible is “true”. Different sects disagree on interpretation, and different translations are not in agreement either. If there was a god who wanted us to believe in this book, he could have done a better job of making it 100% clear.)

    So, Rover, can you be more specific about “misquotes”? Intellectual honesty is very important to me, as is credibility. I’d hate to think you saw us as intentionally “misquoting” the bible. (I will admit that we probably see parts of it in ways you are not accustomed to!)

  • 7. Rover  |  August 6, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Ubi
    “Biblical Hebrew lacks the necessary language to exactly define the comparative sense, i.e., ‘more than’ or ‘less than’. Instead it tends to express two things which may be comparatively of different degree like ‘first’ and ‘second’ as extremes such as ‘first’ and ‘last’. In this way love and hate whilst appearing as opposites may in fact be related but lesser terms such as ‘love more’ and ‘love less’. ” Dr. Karleen

    Mathew 10 supports this view very nicely. Mathew uses different words to describe the same teaching.

    Jesus did not hate his own mother. In fact on the cross he charged john with taking care of her. He upheld the teaching to honor your father and mother. His point seems to be clear that if you want to follow Christ you must love him more than your earthly relations.

    As for the Lord’s supper. It is true that the catholic church has distorted the teaching however even they would not claim that jesus was teaching a form of cannibalism. Mysticisim mabe but not cannabalism. What do yo think Jesus was teaching?

    If someone was to pour over all of my writings wthout giving me a little bit of the benefit of the doubt I could be accused of many abberant teachings. I recently sent an email to someone that was totally misconstrude, but by pointing out some other emails to give me words some meaning I was able to show that person that my “offensive” email was not to be taken that way.

  • 8. Larry T  |  August 6, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    As for the Lord’s supper. It is true that the catholic church has distorted the teaching however even they would not claim that jesus was teaching a form of cannibalism. Mysticisim mabe but not cannabalism. What do yo think Jesus was teaching?

    Rover—

    Good point. When Jesus says “If your right hand offends thee cut it off–it is better to enter into heaven maimed than to enter into hell, or if your right eye offend thee, pluck it out….etc”. I don’t think anyone would seriously think that Jesus meant that literally. If they did they would say “Jesus taught self-mutilation”—but anyone knows that he was not stating something literally, but as an example. The same goes for cannibilism—-I don’t think anyone with half a brain is going to take what Jesus said in his teaching as cannibilism. :)

  • 9. ubi dubium  |  August 6, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Rover

    As for the Lord’s supper. It is true that the catholic church has distorted the teaching however even they would not claim that jesus was teaching a form of cannibalism. Mysticisim mabe but not cannabalism. What do yo think Jesus was teaching?

    (Remember, you are talking to someone who no longer accepts the bible as “truth”) I think we don’t actually know. We know what some evangelists a hundred or so years later said he was teaching, but I have no evidence to show they were correct. Jesus was talking to a group of Jews who had their own mysticism and messianic tradition, a tradition that we don’t fully understand today. The gospels were written for a different audience, greek-speaking gentiles in different parts of the Roman Empire, who had different mystical traditions. I have a strong suspicion that if a historical Jesus were to re-appear today and read what is written in the NT, he might say “That’s not what I meant at all! Who wrote this stuff?”

    The catholics don’t think they have distorted the teachings at all. They were christianity in western Europe for over a thousand years. All of your scriptures have come down to you through them. They chose what books made it into the bible. The KJV is a direct translation of the their Latin bible. Before you dismiss them, be sure you know what parts of your own traditions come directly from them. (And although they would not say they practice ritual cannibalism, that’s what it looks like to an outsider.)

    Rover, if you see a place where you think we are “misquoting” the bible, be sure to ask us about it. You are honest, and non-preachy, and have questions, and are interesting to talk to. I wouldn’t want to scare you off, we need people like you here. :)

  • 10. The Apostate  |  August 7, 2008 at 1:22 am

    QuestionMonkey
    You present a very profound reality in a very simple and readable way. It is in your face and little room to maneuver with theological platitudes (just look at first comment by Jim J). Hats off to you, Mr. Monkey.

    Rover
    I strongly encourage you to read what others have said above about the issue of “cannibalism.”
    As for our continuing discussion, I thought I made it fairly clear that I recognized the literary device, and whether it was or not of much consequence. It is obvious that I made it quite clear that Jesus was not teaching hatred, but that he was teaching that God and dedication to the coming Kingdom of Heaven, be it a temporal or spiritual reality (or both), was exponentially more important than the mundane everyday cares of family life. Furthermore, it is not what is found in the New Testament that is the most shocking, it is what ISN’T found: preferential praise to the importance of family life.

  • 11. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 7, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Rover-

    Jesus taught cannibalistic practices (the lords supper references)

    As for the Lord’s supper. It is true that the catholic church has distorted the teaching however even they would not claim that jesus was teaching a form of cannibalism. Mysticisim mabe but not cannabalism. What do yo think Jesus was teaching?

    FYI, many, if not all Lutherans hold the same views on the Eucharist as Catholics. I’m curious as to what the EOC makes of it?

    Have you actually spoken with Catholics on this issue? I haven’t, but I have heard a Lutheran pastor talk about it, and he mentioned that someone compared it to cannibalism. He had no problem with this comparison. As far as I can tell, Lutherans, and probably Catholics with them, do see themselves as literally eating the flesh of Jesus as a man. They might try to distinguish it from cannibalism, but they are very careful to make sure that you understand that the cracker and wine is his literal flesh and blood, not just a metaphor or some mystic mumbo-jumbo.

    On a lighter note, I love this comic’s take on it (a warning if you decide to dig through the archives of that web-comic: I wouldn’t say any of it is overtly NSFW, but some of them can be rather… disturbing, if it’s not your kind of humor; the particular strip linked should be safe for all, though).

  • 12. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 7, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Grr, stupid blockquote tags…

  • 13. ScottL  |  August 7, 2008 at 5:45 am

    I might have brought up this thought before in another article post, but do you think we try and put our 21st century understanding of accurate testimony and what it means for a text to be ‘without error’ and make it fit with the intent and purpose of writers thousands of years ago in a completely different culture and context?

    I’m just not so sure I can see, outside of possibly good ol’ Dr. Luke, these writers sitting around so worried. But maybe they were. I believe they presented an accurate testimony, but we might need to define that phrase from their understanding, and everyone’s understanding thousands of years ago in all cultures in the then-known world, not the 21st century, western, modernist view. We must even realize the simple thing that not every word was recorded that Jesus spoke (in the Gospels) or Paul spoke (in Acts). Many times they were summaries catching the heart and gist of the teaching and event. That might sound as helpful in preserving ‘accurate testimony’, though news reports (written, audio, and video) do the same today.

    But then the argument comes that this is the point – they did not accurately report everything, plus how did they know when they needed to summarize and not, and why didn’t they all just get on the same page of what they would report so there are no discrepancies. These are valuable questions, but again, I think we are trying to push 21st century ideas into thousands of years ago and their intent and purpose in recording what they did. And I think it a noble thing that, even though their are detail differences such as how many angels at the tomb of Jesus, Matthew and Luke slight variations in the wordings of Jesus’ teaching, etc, the text remained unchanged. Other religions would have possibly said, ‘Oh, we need to make the accounts line up, so change the text. It will help our credibility’ But because it has been left alone, I wonder if we could still see this as noble, truthful, and ‘accurate testimony’.

    Many Christians would not like to admit that some of the reporting was done out of their memory of events (or people like Mark possibly getting his stories from Peter and Luke’s good research), rather than through an almost psychadelic, mouth-foaming, divine revelation (though I do not deny the God-breathed inspiration as a Christian). The reporting was done more naturally than we sometimes like to admit, again, not denying God’s hand in it. This sounds scary to the conservative, or the sceptic. How can we trust the memories of these writers, especially unintelligent fisherman? But it is interesting in that day how the memory might be greater than ours of today. Most recounting of stories and events were given through memory in every people of every culture in that day, hence the reminder in Deuteronomy 6:7, ‘You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.’ They would have been pretty good at recalling events and retelling them because that is all they ever did and many times could rely on. Sometimes the parchment would have been brought out, and it was, for we have the text that we have. But we cannot disregard the purpose, intent, and practice of a people that had been doing it for thousands of years that way just because they don’t fit into our 21st century understanding of recording accurate testimony.

    Plus, we could mention how even someone like Jesus made it easy for them to remember by teaching in parables (short stories with a main point, easy to remember), hyperbole, overstatement, using Jewish imagery, metaphor, proverb, riddle, etc. This shows wisdom in helping to preserve teachings that were not being written out.

    It does not, nor will ever, answer every question. We can’t expect such. That is a lot to expect from humanity. Is it God’s fault? No. He can do ‘whatever He wants’, so He could have made it easier and given us 100% proof of it all. But then I’m not so sure that leaves room for faith, right? I still have questions – you guys are good at reminding me of them. :) But I also am willing to trust Him. Not a blind and silly faith. I ask God hard questions. But I also know I am merely man and can’t come to all the answers.

    Just some musings. :)
    Thanks

  • 14. qmonkey  |  August 7, 2008 at 6:04 am

    Scott…

    I don’t think that anyone is saying… that if there are slight misquotes or times and dates out of place, or even the odd contradiction.. that this means we must totally dis regard it.

    I’m happy to accept (even with out sure evidence) the general narrative of the gospels. As i do the general narrative of Mohammad and indeed Alexander the great.

    But if there are claims of deity in the Jesus/Mohammad/Alex the great then these things need to be assumed untrue unless much much more evidence is provided.

    Furthermore if the claims are of a ‘loving god’ … then the lack of evidence should make you even more skeptical… as surely he wouldn’t make it difficult to choose the correct religion. And he wouldn’t make it only for the clever people, who choose correctly.

    >>Not a blind and silly faith. I ask God hard questions.

    I’m sorry scott… if you are ‘asking god questions’ then you will get the answers you want. you need to step outside of the god paradigm … maybe ask Allah or a fairy some hard questions, you’ll get similar answers. I’m not sure what the opposite of a “blind faith” is…. is there such thing as ‘faith’ beign a bad thing? i’d say yes, look at suicide bombers.. they have LOADS of faith… will jesus bless them for this.. i think not. you need ‘correct’ faith.. in the correct thing… for me, thats not faith at all.. thats reason.

    “…And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

    Even if you believe that the letters of Paul are reliable… even PAUL says you shouldn’t be a Christian until you are convinced that the resurrection happened!!! who is best placed to make this judgment? learn-ed clever people… lets analyse the evidence (for ALL faiths), then go with the consensus, surely? then move on… continually updating our knowledge.

  • 15. Dan H  |  August 7, 2008 at 6:35 am

    “I propose that there is no one, of sane mind, alive on earth who accepts that the Bible is accurate in its reportage of what Jesus did and said… who still says he is not a Christian.”

    I agree! I could believe in Jesus, and I see loads of rational people who do so and their lives are transformed. But I can’t bring myself to believe in the Bible. So the best I can do is some sort of made-up DIY religion.

  • 16. Charlie7  |  August 7, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Here’s your answer, very concisely stated and possibly sounding insane, but basically correct:

    1) Humans are born with the potential (and some fancy circuitry) for communicating directly with God. No intermediaries, no blind faith, etc. In most of us this circuitry is inactive or functioning improperly. To come ‘on line’ you need good information, and you need to test that information for yourself. Nothing in the Bible about blind faith, lots about having spiritual perception.

    2) Hearing the stories about Jesus, what He did and said, and even more importantly, meditating on the personal implications of these stories, is supposed to help ‘wake up’ and begin or further the development of your internal God-circuitry—including some perceptual and cognitive circuitry that does not function in most ‘normal’ people.

    2a) Real ‘faith’ does not mean blind belief. God is not hidden—not even hard to see, once your ‘eyes’ are open. ‘Faith’ means being loyal, doing what is required of you, not being distracted by ‘lower’ level messages when you’re trying to walk the ‘higher’ road. ‘Christians’ may tell you all kinds of stuff, but God does not expect you to ‘just believe, brother’. He wants you to SEE FOR YOURSELF.

    2b) Rational analysis of the situation is inadequate. Right now you’re trying to calculate the heavens with too little information. It’s like trying to do physics before electromagnetic fields and the inverse square law were discovered. You are doing the calculations, but missing so much information that you can’t get correct results. Try to find the right way to listen to the Bible. It won’t be ‘rational’. It’s like learning to look with the side of your retina to see faint stars: learn to think with the side of your mind, sort of. The Bible is not talking about two thousand years ago; it’s talking about US NOW.

    3) People who accept the Bible as valid and accurate information are not necessarily Christians. They call themselves Christians, but their mental mode of ‘acceptance’ ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ is all too often structured so that it blocks activation or distorts the functions of what I’m calling their ‘God-circuitry’, their ability to see/hear/think spiritually. They read the Book and repeat the words, but the real message ain’t getting through.

    4) There are processes at work in our minds and decision-making circuitry, many of them ‘viral’ in effect and operation, that are actively deceptive. Most of us are filled to the gills with BS and don’t realize it. We feel it but don’t want to admit it, in many cases. So it becomes necessary in trying to communicate the truth (you are designed as a god-transciever with the latent ability to receive blessings from Above and distribute them around you) to somehow bypass or render irrelevant huge chunks of this bogosified analytical/rational machinery because it’s loaded with bad information and corrupted algorithms. Hence rational ‘analysis of the evidence’ is almost always an ineffective way of making spiritual decisions. Sorry.

    5) Try this, just for fun. Read the ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ (Matthew chapters 5 – 7 I think). Read it, not as a dusty religious text, but as suggested instructions for becoming fully human, coded so as to reach the minds of at least some of the members of a deeply propagandized, profoundly deluded society (1st cent. Palestine, 21st cent. America). Imagine what kind of person would be able to follow these instructions; then imagine yourself as that person, breathing in and out.

    Or don’t try it. Up to you.

    That’s it in a nutshell. Hope it’s clear enough—I’m trying to summarize info you should have gotten over years between ages 2 and 12.

    The Bible says of Itself, ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ Sorry you don’t get this information from most ‘Christians’. Good luck and blessings.

    Charlie7

  • 17. qmonkey  |  August 7, 2008 at 7:21 am

    1) Who told you that? Whats your reaction if I say… “hmmm, nope – that’s incorrect”
    2) So its actually unimportant if the bible is reliable? It doesn’t mater if Jesus even existed, or indeed was god… it’s the ‘stories’ that are important?
    2a) ‘open your eyes’ …. Riiiiight. Everyone else is ‘blind’ except Christians. I like it. Do I even need to go near the bible…?
    2b) The bible is not talking about 2000 years ago? Really?
    3) so even people who call themselves Christians, arnt actually Christians unless they sign up to your very specific world view? All getting a bit fundamentalist here.
    4) >>> Hence rational ‘analysis of the evidence’ is almost always an ineffective way of making spiritual decisions.
    Well yes of course. But what on earth is a ‘Spiritual Decision’ .. do I have any say in it… is it ok to make a ‘spiritual decision’ that Allah is god, or in deed Marians are gods?
    5) Sermon on the mount?… yes, it contains some great advice.. as does a lot of the bible … the sayings/philosophy of the bible as enriched our society a lot, and continues to. But that’s not really the point I’m making. There are some people out there who think that Jesus was god… you don’t sound like one of them.. which is fair enough. I suppose you claim to be a ‘real’ Christian :) funny how every Christian claims that

  • 18. Peg  |  August 7, 2008 at 7:42 am

    the logic would then be that redemption actually comes from accepting the Bible as accurate, rather than admitting you’re a sinner… etc etc.

    There’s a good element of truth in this. Studying Biblical Greek right now and just learned the word for “repent” – transliterated “metanoya” — literally translated means “to reason and think seriously about something and change one’s mind”. Christianity is, in this sense, a very reasoned faith.

    So why to most Christian preachers and teachers not preach from this kind of reason? Two reasons. 1-The vast majority of people react to well-reasoned preaching with “too heavy” or “way too serious” or “makes my head hurt” type comments. 2-For most people the moment of conversion is emotion- or intuition-based — a response to God’s words — and they come to understand the reasons for the faith later. This may seem cart-before-horse-ish for serious thinkers… I can only tell you that’s how it happens with the vast majority of people.

    Therefore the smarter one is, the more likely they are to be a Christian?

    You’d think so, but actually no… God has a way of turning human wisdom upside down. St. Paul explains: “think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” We who enjoy thinking do well to remember that reason is a tool, a means to an end, and not an end in itself.

  • 19. mohmood  |  August 7, 2008 at 7:56 am

    the post de conversion isphilosophical in nature and repeats the same old story of logic which was propounded by thinkers and philosiphers from time to time. in the series latest being the bertrand russell who like the present learned post author first followed the christain faith and later repulsed it{refer why iam not christain by bertrand russell}however; russell wrote extensively on each subject considering the objective of freedom in evry field.although; iam not following the faith of christain but it may not surprise the author that a muslim can;t be muslim unless he/she has faith in the prophets of jews and christains.thus; lord juses being the holy prophet as said by holy koran who was also bestowed with supernatural powers only to demonstrate the faith in followers that whatever; he preachs is the direct apostle teachings from almighty GOD.questions like the crude logic that whether the miracles happened and the apostle teachings so mentioned in the holy books are authentic; can;t have the mathematical answer in as much as the science fails to answer the crude logic while assuming things or keeping its research on speculative basis.if the logic of the learned author could be accepted his logic shall automatically fail at later stage when someone more intelligent than learned could could come and reject the earlier arguments.in my raw opinion it is deeper subject yet; with one obervation that logic and faith are two different things. if for instance if the learned author could be asked how much he loves his/son/daughter; iam sure the learned author may not be able to demonstrate it in mathematical terms as love belo0ngs to faith/emotion; hence not logically reconciable. thanks

  • 20. qmonkey  |  August 7, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Peg, with the greatest respect (and I do like your blog), but I don’t think you’ve followed your logic far enough.
    You seem to accept my point that .. reasoning (metanoya? :) ) that acceptance that the bible is accurate is the moment one ‘becomes’ a Christian. But the paragraph about ‘therefore need to be smarter…’ doesn’t really work (I think).

    >>> God has a way of turning human wisdom upside down
    Eh? Says who?
    >>“think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth

    But you’re using the bible to justify the bible.
    I could write a book tomorrow saying similar things… it wouldn’t make it correct. Our Muslim friend above doesnt think Jesus rose from the dead.. he thinks that the gospels report this inaccurately… he’s wrong yeah? or is he just not clever enough? or the ‘wrong kind’ of clever?

    Wouldn’t it stand to reason then that the people best suited to make the best reasoned decisions… are the smartest people… ? and therefore… the fact that the 30% of the world that claim to accept the bible as accurate… arnt necessarily the smartest 30%, says something.
    (I am of course not saying non-christians are any more smart… I hope you get my point)

  • 21. Mags  |  August 7, 2008 at 8:44 am

    all the discusion , never explicitly mentions, but gives an idea that believing bible is the way to salvation/heaven/whatever-it-is-u-r-looking-for. It might be a way but surely is not the only way.

    some very intelligent points made through the discusio, but some very fundamentally stupid were also thrown in the way.

    but why does believing bible have to be a cognitive event? thats exactly what bible is not about (personal view). even if it is, “dead-sea-scrolls” gives me enough reason to believe.

    lastly I personally believe in Jesus, but as far as providing evidence is concerned for cognizance(is that the right spelling??), I am unable to do so. reasons: the evidences are intangible. like u trying to describe a car to someone who has not seen one, but seen an ox-cart, he will have an idea of car but only as modified cart, which is right to an extent but not totally.

    I am not saying christians are smarter than others because they know stuff that others don’t, and just cant describe it.

    Christians are just privileged.

    I apologise for any sentiments hurt.

    reat work, keep it up.

  • 22. qmonkey  |  August 7, 2008 at 9:02 am

    >>>but why does believing bible have to be a cognitive event? thats exactly what bible is not about (personal view).

    but you cognitively decided that ;)

    >>I am not saying christians are smarter than others because they know stuff that others don’t, and just cant describe it.

    is a more succinct word for that… delusion?

  • 23. john t.  |  August 7, 2008 at 9:23 am

    qmonkey

    When trying to explain the unexplainable, we all become a little “delusional”, or is that what happens after a few pints.
    Oh well ;)

  • 24. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Apostate
    just for the record I stated that my concerns came from a blog dialogue I had with you .I did not mean to imply that you taught the “cannibalism” view. May apoligize for being misleading.

    Ubi – I know you don’t believe the Bible is truth but I think we can all take a reasonable stab at interpreting literature. So it was not inappropriate to as what you thought Christ meant in regards to “eating his flesh”. I was just looking for your literary insight, which you did give me. so I thank you.

    Christians – If many of you don’t beleive the bible is God’s word then why believe anything that it says? If it is wrong on even one point then the whole book is suspect (as being inspired by God). If you choose to create a faith loosely based on Christ that’s fine, but on what basis do you defend that faith? Why is the “gut’ feeling of a Baptist any different from the gut feeling the mormon gets? We as Christians should not turn off our brain and say its all about faith. Faith in something that is provably false is foolishness, even Paul believe that. Why am I struggling with the validity of the Bible? It is because we don’t have good answers to some very good questions. Not the cannibalism stuff or the cut off your hand stuff but real stuff. Why require human sacrifice? Why torment people in hell for ever and ever? Why not save all if God can save some? Why isn’t the Gospel, the linchpin of the faith, clear in the New Testament? Is it simple faith or hardcore discipleship that saves us? Stop giving platitudes!

  • 25. qmonkey  |  August 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

    When we try to explain the (as yet) unexplainable… we tend to invent gods… I think that’s the evidence of human history. Understandably i must admit.

  • 26. The Apostate  |  August 7, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Charlie7 in comment 16,

    ) Humans are born with the potential (and some fancy circuitry) for communicating directly with God.

    Your entire comment relies on this one sentence. A sentence with no basis whatsoever. A sentence that cannot be proven nor does it have any evidence. It is a sentence that gives your very weak opinion and will never convince anybody – even one with a mind that is barely functioning. It is what we call a grasping illogical justification.

    If you can show me, or anyone else here, what the evidence for this circuitry is, then we can discuss the rest of your illogic.

  • 27. The Apostate  |  August 7, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Rover,
    I was not insinuating that we ever had a dialogue on cannibalism. I was responding, in completeness, to your comment.

  • 28. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 10:32 am

    You’re welcome

  • 29. Ed Sylvia  |  August 7, 2008 at 11:26 am

    If God is Infinite Love and Infinite Wisdom how is this communicated to us in the “crude” historical accounts of the Bible?

    Furthermore, there is another intellectual challenge that Scripture forces on us. If all things that were ever created in the universe were created from God’s Holy Word, then it must contain deeper dynamics within its narratives that would reveal to us something about the New Physics (quantum physics, relativity theory, etc.,).

    These things cannot be discovered from a corporeal/sensual examination of Scripture. Higher, untapped cognitive levels of the mind must kick-in. These levels are blocked off by materialistic (literal) approaches.

    The Sacredness and authority of the Lord’s Holy Word comes from the fact that it is a multidimensional document that reveals God’s Infinite Wisdom in all matters of science and the ultimate salvation of the human race.

    These more “rarefied” revelations are what are meant by the Lord’s “coming with the clouds” at the time of His return. Spiritually speaking, CLOUDS represent mental obscurity concerning our ideas about God. The Second Coming is not a physical event. It represents a paradigm change and more adequate world-view of ultimate reality.

    Spiritually yours,
    TheGodGuy

  • 30. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 7, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Mags-

    like u trying to describe a car to someone who has not seen one, but seen an ox-cart, he will have an idea of car but only as modified cart, which is right to an extent but not totally.

    Switching into needlessly pedantic mode: I would say that an ox-cart is exactly what a car is, at it’s most basic level (the whole “horseless carriage” idea). You’ve just replaced the ox with an internal combustion engine. We’ve added a lot to our modern concept of a car, but at it’s core it’s just a fancy cart that moves by harnessing the energy released in combustion instead of the energy released in a horse or ox’s movements.

    On a less pedantic note, I get the feeling you are failing to realize that we were all Christians at one point here.

    Christians are just privileged.

    Care to explain all the former Christians here, then, who were once “privileged” and have now decided to reject that?

    ScottL

    He can do ‘whatever He wants’, so He could have made it easier and given us 100% proof of it all. But then I’m not so sure that leaves room for faith, right?

    I’m getting really sick of this sentiment. The disciples had pretty darn close to 100% proof, did they not have faith? What about Moses? There are many examples throughout the bible where people had all the proof you could really need to believe in God.

    Also, thanks to whomever fixed my previous post’s blockquotes.

  • 31. Larry T.  |  August 7, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    It is because we don’t have good answers to some very good questions. Not the cannibalism stuff or the cut off your hand stuff but real stuff. Why require human sacrifice? Why torment people in hell for ever and ever? Why not save all if God can save some? Why isn’t the Gospel, the linchpin of the faith, clear in the New Testament? Is it simple faith or hardcore discipleship that saves us? Stop giving platitudes!

    Rover–

    I know most likely this won’t fly with you, or with many others. But the fact is, as Christians there are many questions we simply cannot answer. Hell, election, the Trinity, The Devil, etc.—these are things which are “revealed” to us, but not “explained”. For instance, the Bible says there is a hell–Jesus taught it, and Revelation says that those in the Lake of fire are tormented “forever and ever”.

    I cannot understand that. Perhaps I am not meant to understand it, or because it has eternal consequences I am completely unable, in a finite state, to even grasp it. But a way has been made for me to avoid that place—that’s for sure. Am I going to let what I do not understand deter me from accepting and following salvation? Am I going to let teachings I cannot grasp turn me away from what I know to be true?

    Romans 10: 9,10 says “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved”. That’s pretty plain to me–there are many things I don’t understand. But that verse is very clear and I accept it.

  • 32. The Apostate  |  August 7, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Larry T.,

    Am I going to let teachings I cannot grasp turn me away from what I know to be true?

    What do you know to be true? And why?

  • 33. me  |  August 7, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    of course you are right – if by ‘reliable’ you mean: “to be taken literally.” for me, there is nothing more absurd than the assertion that scriptures are also histories – that they are factually, historically, literally true. but there is something to be said for the metaphorical ‘truth’ of scripture. i’d be willing to accept that. it think it just depends on how you choose to read (or misread) it…

  • 34. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Am I going to let teachings I cannot grasp turn me away from what I know to be true?

    Am I going to let teachings I cannot grasp turn me toward what I do not know to be true?

  • 35. Larry T.  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Am I going to let teachings I cannot grasp turn me away from what I know to be true?

    What do you know to be true? And why?

    Apostate—

    When I say “know to be true” I mean things simple enough for me to understand. For instance, when Jesus says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man open the door, I will come into him, and sup with him and he with me” (Rev 3:20)
    I understand immediately that Jesus is asking us to open the door of are hearts and let him “come in”. This is confirmed by John 1:12 which says “As many as received him, to them he gave the right to be children of God…”

    I can understand this easily. A concept of hell I cannot understand easily at all. It is beyond my comprehension. So, what I mean is am I going to let a teaching like hell, which I cannot understand drive me away from a way of salvation I CAN understand? Will I refuse to accept Christ, or reject him, because of a teaching I cannot grasp—while the way of salvation is made very clear to me? Because I don’t understand why there is a devil will I reject a Savior who is calling me to come to Him? That seems a very unwise thing to do.

  • 36. The Nerd  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    One thing people forget: JESUS WAS LITERATE! He could read. He could write. And yet his teachings weren’t important enough to record, but we all had to wait around for over a generation before someone bothered to write it down? That alone should set off a few alarms.

  • 37. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    When I say “know to be true” I mean things simple enough for me to understand.

    That seems purposely misleading to me. You do not know these understandable teachings to be true, you simply understand them. That’s a rather important distinction. There are understandable teachings on salvation in many religions, but you reject most of these.

  • 38. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Larry T,

    It is not about things we cannot grasp. I cannot grasp the Trinity either, so I see your point in that regard, but what about things we can grasp? Can sticks cause genetic differences in goats? Are women less valuable then men – literally. Is slavery okay. What about the things that aren’t great mysteries of the faith? If these things are questionable then isn’t Romans 10 questionable?
    If the Bible is a mystery, why not believe in the other “mysery” books like the Book of Morman or the Koran. It is not my goal to destroy anyones faith, but we have to apply the same standards to the Bible as we do these other books.

  • 39. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    “mysery” was not a mistake not a joke

  • 40. Larry T.  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Can sticks cause genetic differences in goats? Are women less valuable then men – literally. Is slavery okay. What about the things that aren’t great mysteries of the faith? If these things are questionable then isn’t Romans 10 questionable?
    If the Bible is a mystery, why not believe in the other “mysery” books like the Book of Morman or the Koran. It is not my goal to destroy anyones faith, but we have to apply the same standards to the Bible as we do these other books.

    Rover—

    Jesus tells a story of how a certain man made a wedding for his son, and sent out the servants to invite the guests. It says they “all began to make excuse” as to why they couldn’t come to the wedding.

    In similar fashion, many say “oh, I can’t believe the Gospel because Hell is a horrible teaching”, or “I can’t believe because I don’t understand why God would create a devil” etc. etc. They are literally rejecting the way of salvation due to concepts they cannot understand. The way of salvation is simple: “Receive Jesus Christ into your heart and repent”. Anyone can understand that. To turn away from that because you cannot grasp hell or some other teaching that we may never be able to understand is pure foolishness in my opinion.

    Snuggly said:
    Am I going to let teachings I cannot grasp turn me toward what I do not know to be true?

    That really doesn’t make sense. Why would they?

  • 41. Rover  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Larry T,

    You really didn’t deal with my question. Why not follow the Mormon way of salvation. Do you think that any religious book as valid as long as we can grasp some truths in it?

  • 42. The Apostate  |  August 7, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Larry T.

    So, what I mean is am I going to let a teaching like hell, which I cannot understand drive me away from a way of salvation I CAN understand?

    I’m not sure if you understood the premise of this post then. No one is saying someone should leave their faith because of some difficult concepts – if anything, those concepts should be the reason one should study their religion that much more.

    When I say “know to be true” I mean things simple enough for me to understand. For instance, when Jesus says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man open the door, I will come into him, and sup with him and he with me”

    Okay, so you know this to be true because of…why? The book you are quoting from was not written until at least a century after the death of Jesus and was not even accepted into most Bibles for several hundred years – it was even still being debated in the 9th century.
    Am I to assume that the only reason you know this to be true is because it is in the Bible?
    Why, then, is the Bible true? Why don’t you believe that life is suffering, that this suffering is caused by craving/desire, that the cure for this suffering is through means of the teachings of the Buddha, and the cessation of this suffering will lead to Nirvana? Why is this not an inherent truth for you?

  • 43. Larry T.  |  August 7, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    You really didn’t deal with my question. Why not follow the Mormon way of salvation. Do you think that any religious book as valid as long as we can grasp some truths in it?

    Rover—

    No—I didn’t say that. The Book of Mormon has proven itself to be false due to archaeological evidence for one thing, and the moral character of the one person who wrote it—Joseph Smith in 1820-1830. The Bible was written by 40 different authors over thousands of years, and is true both historically and archaelogically. (I’m sure there may be some dispute over a few facts, but compared to the errors in the book of Mormon it is almost ridiculous).

    I didn’t say we should believe any religion because we can grasp a few truths in it, I said that we should not disbelieve the Gospel just because we cannot understand some “concepts”. These concepts are still truths—we just cannot fully understand them. To avoid the main, wonderful message of the Gospel, and reject it, due to a few things we cannot understand is just plain foolish.

    I don’t understand how a microwave works, but I’m sure as heck going to use it if I have a potato, and I’m hungry and I only have a short time for a meal. I don’t have to fully understand how the thing works to know that it is very useful to me. I don’t have to understand all of the teachings in the New Testament to know that it is true—I only need to accept what I can understand.

  • 44. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 7, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Of course, I can use a microwave and see that it works. So far, I don’t see that the Bible “works.”

  • 45. qmonkey  |  August 7, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Larry,

    Whether or not the Bible is a useful book for you.. and a book within which you find ‘truth’ isn’t really under debate (as far as i understand).

    But, if you were satisfied that the physical, literal resurection of Jesus didn’t actually happen…. would that change anything for you? my guess is yes. so i think we need to move on from the wooly notions of ‘truth’ … Christianity needs at least some of the stories and claims of the bible to be literally fact… it is these things which are under discussion.

  • 46. Larry T.  |  August 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    qmonkey—-

    Understood. Looks like I got away from the original discussion
    a bit. Sorry about that. :)

  • 47. pantheophany  |  August 7, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Even if he’s a genocidal monster I’ll bow down since you convinced me at ‘accurate and reliable’.

    I think a lack of morality is showing in this statement, most likely as a rhetorical effect rather than a considered one. My de-conversion went through the path you mention. I believed that the Bible was literally true. Study of the Bible showed me that Yahweh was a “genocidal monster” as you say. I realized that even if Hell were the result, I could not worship such a thing. Perhaps that was just the bravado of youth, but still, just because you believe the Bible is no excuse for worshiping an evil god. Even standing before a vengeful god, we are still subject to conscience and doing right.

  • 48. Obi  |  August 7, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Larry T. —

    The Bible accurate historically and archaeologically? Surely you jest. Have you forgotten the Flood, the impossibility of Noah’s Ark, the creation story, and the massacre of the innocents in Matthew? I’m quite sure that I’m missing a few, as well. Or are you one of those Christians who toss everything that historical records and scientific investigation have proven false into the “figurative” pile of stories, which a Mormon could just as easily claim for his/her religion’s inconsistencies to keep it “historically accurate”? Remember that it works both ways, mate.

    Also, I’d think that this issue would be more important to you than whether or not an ordinary microwave works. Each microwave doesn’t claim that it is the only one that works, and that all other microwaves will instantaneously explode in your face upon activation. Indeed, if that were the case, I’d try the very best I could to figure out exactly how each one worked.

  • 49. The Apostate  |  August 7, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Larry,

    You really didn’t deal with my question. Why not follow the Mormon way of salvation. Do you think that any religious book as valid as long as we can grasp some truths in it?

    I suppose you didn’t quite understand my response.
    I asked, explicitly and bluntly, why is the Bible true? I wasn’t talking about salvation by comparing Buddhism – I was talkign about assuming the truth of what you read without any apparent criticism, as if what is written is obviously true. The main difference between truth claims between Buddhism and Christianity is that the Buddha advocated people to try out his philosophy – if it doesn’t work, than forget about it. Meanwhile, several books in the Bible and almost every conservative fundamentalist Christian warns of foolish earthly wisdom and explicitly tells us to not test the Lord your God. The only pragmatic tests that are advocated in the Bible appears to be those that will help you tell whether yourself or others are good Christians or not. Yippee.

    I am unsure what question I did not answer. I think it is pretty apparent that you do not need to entirely grasp something in order to put your trust in it. I had already thoroughly stated this. The question is why you should believe it in the first place.

  • 50. Charlie7  |  August 8, 2008 at 12:53 am

    qmonkey, hi! Thanks for your response 17. to my earlier comments 16.. It’s hard to develop a coherent explanation in such short space of what I’m trying to say, but I will press on in my efforts. thanks for providing some stimulus to try to be clearer.

    By the way, I am not (really) interested in an argument as such. I want to see us all get smarter. A big problem with most conservative Christians is their desire to suppress dialectical (give-and-take) discussion. I am not of that crowd. So I respect and value your sincerity and I appreciate having a chance to respond to your responses. I learn in the back and forth, and hope you do too.

    Your cool questions, my efforts at answers:

    1) What if you say I’m just wrong [about humans being designed to be god-transcievers?] My reaction?

    My reaction is ‘try it, you’ll like it.’ There’s some serious ‘juice’ or ‘light’ that flows down from Above. Seriously.

    Who told me? Jesus told me, Buddha told me, Rumi, lots of folks. (Rumi is good stuff). Lao Tzu. Poets I like—Denise Levertov, Wendell Berry, Charles Williams, Dante. Bob Marley (One Love One Light One Heart Jah Love). Dr. John Carlos, one of the sprinters kicked out of the ’68 Olympics for a clenched fist salute. Whoever. Martin Luther King Jr. Lots of people have seen God, communicated with Him, been transformed, elevated.

    They told me. And I listened. Listened, tried it. Seen it for myself, in myself, in my wife and kids, lots of friends. In kids in rehab. Same thing happens in each unique human in a unique way. (Paradox alert…logical anomaly…) Heart opens, bam. Same basic message in Buddhism, Bible, Yoga, etc. (Also a whole range of ways to screw it up, get weird about it, run head trips. Beware the religious righteous! and metaphysical cuckoos!)

    It’s not a philosophy but a practical factuality. Answers the question, ‘why can’t we all get along?’ But you can just deny it, never have to try it. Free will rules. Like if I said ‘there’s this stuff called electromagnetic fields, you can communicate over long distances’ and you called me a witch. Or ‘there’s these moons in orbit around Jupiter’ and you persecute me for heresy (Galileo and the medieval church).

    Problem here is that the telescope/receiver is not physical but in your own mind and a little work is needed to find it. You know, seeking around for what we call good information amidst all the counterfeits.

    2) So its actually unimportant if the bible is reliable? It doesn’t mater if Jesus even existed, or indeed was god… it’s the ‘stories’ that are important?

    Yes, basically. That’s what I said, and I’m sticking by it. It makes some of my Christian friends a little nervous; others agree happily. I do happen to believe Jesus was a real person and a lot of the biblical reporting is (somewhat) accurate, but I can see the factual contradictions in the Gospel accounts as clearly as any skeptical agnostic. But I also believe that the Bible, if you can find the right way to read it, contains real information ‘from God’—so to speak. ‘The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.’ Yes, it’s about the stories not the historical facts. It’s what it says about human nature that really matters. Read it for the implications and the applications first, not the ‘facts’.

    Sometimes we say it like this: believe in Jesus as a fact or a metaphor, the Christ-function is real.

    So yes, you heard me correctly: the Bible is true, but more in terms of what it means than in terms of history. So it’s OK with me if you read the whole thing as ‘just’ a parable: that can be more life-transforming than reading it literally. ‘The letter kills but the Spirit makes alive’ 2 Cor something or other. That’s what we’re into: Life.

    2a) ‘Everyone else is blind but Christians’ I didn’t say that and sorry if the hasty / time-and-space-constrained format of e-discussion led to misunderstandings. I am a Christian but do not say (nor in my understanding does the Bible) that only Christians can ‘see’ God. Example of Melchizedek in Genesis: where did he come from? Not a Jew, but Abraham tithed to him, king of Salem and priest of the Most High. ‘By their fruit’ (bible says Jesus said that): so if Buddhists bear the fruit, God bless ‘em. I actually study a lot of buddhist stuff, meditate, etc. It works if you work it, as the AA folks say.

    But to ‘blind’—Duh. Yes. Lots of blindness. Jesus said it, Muhammad said it, Buddha said it. Folks everywhere with those spiritual eyes tight shut, get back! Else how so many wars, deaths from starvation while cows and pigs fatten, etc. Stupid, blind people open your f-ing eyes, please! Or as Paul said, Sleepers wake up! Christians (self-named) as bad as any. Bush fundamentalist folly war us vs. them need I say more?

    2b) The Bible is talking about you and me now in terms of thousands of years ago. Adam, Eve and the snake is (a parable) about what’s wrong with the world now. ‘Blood of the Lamb’ is about getting past your (anyone’s, the collective ‘you’ meaning ‘us’, ‘our’) ego now. It’s…a parable. Really. It’s about now not then.

    If that’s weird well golly. The standard Christian approach doesn’t seem to please you any more than it does me. Is this viewpoint worth a try? Go back and take one more look? Maybe…

    Jesus (reportedly) told stories about unjust judges, weird employers who paid everyone the same no matter how long they worked, etc. But he was really talking about his hearers’ lives. That’s how I try to read the whole Bible: it makes no sense unless you apply it to now realities. To yourself (myself).

    I like to say the Bible does not intend to communicate historical or scientific information, and is not necessarily reliable in those areas. It is communicating spiritual information intended to stimulate self-examination and self-transformation. Period. Full stop.

    3) ‘Christians not christians unless they sign up to your world view?’

    Well, busted on that one.

    I am working off of some Biblical principles, such as ‘watch out for wolves in sheeps’ clothing’. Is someone who, in the face of Jesus’ warnings about not bullying people, kills for religion a Christian? Someone who persecutes people who attempt doctrinal variations? ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ Jesus told the Pharisees that they weren’t really Jews: We are sons of Abraham they said, and he told them they were sons of the first liar instead. That guy, the one whose hisss still resonates…so to speak. (Starting to catch on to this metaphor thing?)

    But you’re right, a more judicious stating of my position might be less harsh, exclusionary and fundamentalist in tone. Point taken for future reference.

    On the other hand, ‘my world view’ is not that specific; it’s all over the place. Versions/variations of it are fround from Sioux sundance to Tibetan monastery to Episcopalian communion to Rastafarian toke-up… it’s not ‘my’ world view, just my formulation of an ancient bundle of information.

    Yes, I am only hinting at something. I strongly encourage looking into the Bible, especially Psalms, Isaiah, and the NT as a whole. Spirit, not letter. Also read Doris Lessing’s Shikasta and other books in that set, Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, did I recommend Rumi? G. I. Gurdjieff is a real mind-bender.

    I will say this as clearly as I can. Basic human design includes ‘higher’ functions that aren’t properly activated in most of us. True in pretty much every religion. Whether part of the original design or due to earth-surface adverse conditions (massive storms of bullshit on almost every channel), a great deal of external input of the right kinds is needed to activate internal systems for freedom, self-knowledge, wisdom, light-translation (so to speak), etc. In other words, you need a good education in this stuff before you can learn to use it, and that can be hard to come by in this messed-up world. How long it took to learn to drive well and safely—this stuff is much harder, faster traffic, more distractions, etc.

    4) what on earth is a ‘Spiritual Decision’ .. do I have any say in it… is it ok to make a ‘spiritual decision’ that Allah is god, or in deed Marians are gods?

    Here’s the deal (I did not invent this, just passing it on): a spiritual decision (sorry if you hear echoes of Billy Graham ‘make a decision for Jesus today’, that was unintentional) let’s call it a spiritual choice, has real consequences just as a decision to take this or that highway, or to smoke or not smoke crack. There is a way to get to Oklahoma and a way to get lost on the cow track. There is good food and there is poison. There is toward God and away from God. Pragmatic stuff.

    Some of the basic rules for this human system include:
    Humble yourself down.
    Don’t lie.
    Feed the needy.
    Expect to reap what you sow.
    Be grateful for what you’ve got.

    That’s not my world view. That’s old, old, old knowledge. Rules for becoming human.

    And yes OF COURSE you have a say in it. That’s the point! The whole freaking point is that we have choices … to love or not to love. To be smart or stupid. I like smart a lot better. But lots of people make other choices…just look around us.

    Fact is we’re all making spiritual choices all the time. We just don’t make the cause/effect connections sometimes. Example: greed causes suffering. It’s like physics. You can study it, see for yourself.

    I am a hillbilly in my spare time. I spend a lot of time with dangerous things like chainsaws, speeding automobiles, fire and electricity, etc. I value reality contact very highly, and so far I still have all my fingers and toes. I am urging (but not arguing, as if to compel agreement, admittedly a perhaps too-subtle distinction at times) that there are spiritual realities that are pointed out in metaphorical or ‘parabolic’ form in the Bible (and elsewhere), realities that in their way are as real, sharp and dangerous/useful as a chainsaw or pickup truck. ‘Letter kills, spirit makes live’. Basic principles for getting along spiritually, not just making money or good arguments.

    Sure, believe in Allah. ‘Allah’ is God, in another language. Creator, omnipotent, omnipresent, all that stuff. Did He reveal Himself to Muhammed and thru the Qu’ran? I’m not saying yes or no. Check it out for yourself. I know if you do what the Qu’ran really says to do, you might start having some of these spiritual experiences I’m talking about. Talk to some ‘real’ Muslims :-) .

    The Bible does say ‘only one name’, but the name Jesus means ‘salvation’, and I expect God can translate, eh? so if you cry for ‘salvation’ in hindi or mandarin, I think he leans over and listens (in a manner of speaking).

    Actually, to be truthful, I asked Him about that, years ago, and He told me that He does listen, that He can translate from one tongue/spoken name to another, that it’s the heart that truly pronounces the Name, but you’ve got no evidence but my word for that….eh?

    Do you want to believe in ‘marians’ (martians?)? Why? What does it gain you? What does it cost? I’m saying that our ‘spiritual’ choices have real consequences, and that (perhaps with some help from study of religious traditions) we can learn to test what’s spiritually real and what’s not. Trash the wishful thinking and blind ‘faith’ and the fear-promoted subversions of character pushed by exploiters. We need to know what’s up—not mind control. ‘Free yourselves from mental slavery’ as St. Bob Marley says.

    My point is that since spiritual beliefs (decisions, choices, commitments) have consequences, they are testable. For instance, if my religion makes me want to kill people—literally or intellectually—with bombs or with an ideology kill their freedom of thought, then I’ve probably got it wrong somewhere, no?

    Reasoning, rational analysis of evidence and spiritual reality testing: for measuring pool ball impacts, your eye, a stopwatch, scales, and a tape measure plus some Newtonian math will work OK—but not for radio waves. For radio waves one needs … a radio and Maxwell’s equations. For ‘God-waves’ (so to speak) one needs something else again. It’s called a ‘heart’ in some places. Reasoning is good for balancing your checkbook or diagnosing engine trouble. But it falls short when testing spiritual choices: do I kill this person or not? Logic can’t answer.

    5) There are some people out there who think that Jesus was god… you don’t sound like one of them.. which is fair enough.

    Well, weird as it may seem I’m able to i) believe the pretty standard idea that Jesus was with God and was God, was/is the Son of God, the Word through whom all things were/are made (John ch 1) and to ii) be OK with it if you don’t believe quite the same. I believe He was/is God and I also expect to quite possibly see more Buddhists than Baptists in heaven, amen.

    And no, I don’t call myself a ‘real Christian’; for one thing, that’s expressive of the Aristotelian/Bertrand-Russelian logic of exclusionary identity, which says you can’t be A and not-A at the same time. But people are more complex than that—and God, whew! Big Guy is all over the place. Wrote a Bible full of contradictions and paradoxes, just to get us thinking and maybe humble our minds. ‘To the Buddhists I’m a Christian, to the Christians I’m a Buddhist, to God I’m just me, thank God.’

    For another thing, it’s pretty tough to be a ‘real’ Christian—one who can live, say, the way the Sermon on the Mount proposes—I’m not there; I only aspire. Closer some days than others. Gurdjieff said something like that: ‘As we are, we can only aspire to be Christians.’

    And I still stand by the basic content of my first response. It’s not ‘my world view’ or whatever. Any more than Special Relativity or Maxwell’s field equations (was it maxwell?) or the rules of nuclear fission are ‘my’ world view. What works, works.

    Yeehaw. Charlie7 out. (And about damn time, youbetcha). Jah Hu.

  • 51. Peg  |  August 8, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Qm – Thanks for your reply (#20) and you’re right, I could have been clearer. Will give it another try. Yes, a belief in the accuracy of the Bible is important but I don’t think that’s the moment of conversion. I’ve met people who believe in the Bible’s accuracy who aren’t Christians and don’t really want to be. I think for me it was one step in the process.

    Christianity is a reasoned faith but it is not only about reason. The experience of conversion – which in my case was more a string of events than one earth-shattering moment – had a lot of reason as foundational material. I studied most of the world’s major religions and spoke with various kinds of believers and gave it a lot of thought. But the one moment in which I vividly recall being presented with a choice, a decision to be made, the question at hand was not “what do you think?” but rather “what will you do?” I can detail that if you like but bottom line for me conversion had at least as much to do with the will as with the intellect.

    Re: “God has a way of turning human wisdom upside down” – that’s just one of my ways of thinking, an observation, feel free to take it or leave it. My experience after 25+ years at this is God is a master of the unexpected and His POV is usually just about the opposite of what we think He thinks. ;)

    The scripture quotation was not meant to justify my point but to explain my observations better than I can. The people who hear the question “what will you do?” and answer “go with you, Lord” don’t seem to fall into any kind of demographic of intelligence. Just meant to say Paul’s observation matches my experience.

  • 52. The Apostate  |  August 8, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Peg,

    ut the one moment in which I vividly recall being presented with a choice, a decision to be made, the question at hand was not “what do you think?” but rather “what will you do?”

    Sounds extremely subjective to me. Christianity is inherently a religion about orthodoxy, unlike Buddhism which focuses on orthopraxy. “Orthodox” Christianity – whatever that may be – has historically been more concerned with what you believe, due to Paul’s gospel, than what you do. Of course there is no consensus in this strange animal we call Christianity, so even Christians themselves are left infighting about how to get to their heaven. Buddhism, on the other hand, cares very little for what you believe as it is an inherently pragmatic philosophical system – some sects are barely even “religious” (at least in reference to belief in supernatural entities).

  • 53. Charlie7  |  August 8, 2008 at 2:08 am

    qmonkey, I hope I have not tried your patience too far by taking up so much space here. Your questions seemed sincere, I have been places and seen things a lot of people haven’t, so I wanted to try to offer some thoughts. NOT just pushing something I read or was told but what I’ve seen and use all the time. It’s the real deal. Anyway, I’ll post one more reply to that rude person Apostate and then shut up and let others have the forum floor. Pax and (should you desire them) blessings
    Charlie 7

  • 54. Charlie7  |  August 8, 2008 at 2:10 am

    Apostate, in your post 26 you quote the opening of my original comment

    Humans are born with the potential (and some fancy circuitry) for communicating directly with God.

    Then you say Your entire comment relies on this one sentence…. If you can show me, or anyone else here, what the evidence for this circuitry is, then we can discuss the rest of your illogic.

    So yes, I’ll accept ‘illogic’ if you say so, since I never claimed to prove anything, just making suggestions, kind of; but I don’t know what your evidence is either? Reasoning from what basis are you? (Rhetorical question.)

    But please notice that within my statement is at least the implied (logical) possibility for you to find out for yourself…see it for yourself. I could show you some of it in person but you’re not here…. People in the West thought acupuncture was ‘illogical’, until they saw major surgery performed without any anesthetic but some needles….Hmm. My position is not based on logic but on direct experience. I saw it. It happened to me. I am a living witness.

    There’s no logic to support that. I saw two men rob a liquor store when I was 17. There was gunfire. I was on my way to a ZZ Top concert. No logic can prove that either.

    But yes, I admit it’s not something you can just believe, (and I don’t urge you to do so: blind faith is … blinding) any more than the Church authorities could believe Galileo’s claim that Jupiter had moons without looking through his telescope. No ear, no hear.

    I believe the bishops’ response to Galileo’s claims was pretty much the same as yours to me: impossible, illogical, heretical. Not worth hearing. But who was right? I am not in the least (I’m laughing) shaken by your … unwillingness to faintly consider my claim as even possibly valid, though you have… no…evidence to disprove it…. but your own…assertive…voice… I too hear ‘a grasping illogical justification’, perhaps? An emotional need rationalized? (Sorry but you did ask for it. My swing probably won’t connect anyway, arouse no hostile feelings or anything; but if it does, hey you’re tough, you can take it as well as dish it out. Yee ha.)

    There is evidence for the ‘circuitry’, but you’re not going to accept it just on my sayso. I seriously doubt anything I say could even slightly scratch your disbelief. You seem to already know. Just like the bishops putting down Galileo, no? The tone of your post strongly suggests that.

    One piece of ‘evidence’ I can offer (but doubt it will touch you at all, Apostate): pretty much every religion from shamanism to Christianity, Buddhism etc. has essentially the same imagery of illumination: body of light, spinal column illuminated, inward levels, and crown or halo or feather headdress representing … the ‘cell-phone tower’ of spiritual communication, satellite receiver for the god-uplink. That’s the circuitry I’m talking about. The Bible (yes it’s not evidence I know) says stuff like ‘If your eye is whole your body will be filled with light’. That’s literal, even if Adam and Eve aren’t. Same in Tantric Buddhism, Sioux sundance religion, everywhere. It’s real. I seen it fer myself, Jim Bob, an’ it’s re-al!

    My wife is named Teresa. She’s plump and cute. You’ve never met her, have no reason to believe she exists. But your disbelief does not undermine my knowledge. How can it? Don’t be silly.

    So my original post was apparently not meant for Apostate. I am just putting this idea (human bean as potential god-transceiver) out there for someone who might hear it, who will perhaps keep an open mind when they do get a chance to ‘look through the telescope’ of their heart at God.

    Yes, Apostate or others who feel (note verb intentionally chosen) similarly: you have no basis for believing me—or for disbelieving. Sure. I sound ‘illogical’. So I am probably wasting my time when I say that I have been in the room when people saw God for the first time. Repeatedly. My kids see God. My wife. My friends. It’s kind of a personal practical thing, though—like sex. I can tell you it’s fun, but you really need to try it for yourself. Someone who’s never had an orgasm could deny that the ‘circuitry’ exists in pretty much the same terms….I hear some people have never had sex. ? Is that a ‘logical’ basis for denying it happens?

    By the way, seeking God out is kind of risky. (Like love or sex.) It puts pressure on you to change. It makes you responsible for stuff you’re getting away with now. If you start then chicken out (it happens a lot), you become a hypocrite, religious or otherwise. So maybe you’re better off as you are, Apostate. (Smile.)

    Sorry, that’s probably about all I can offer. ‘Body of light.’ Galileo. Telescope. ‘Heresy’.

    Apostate, I’m not responsible to your logic, really, am I? I’m only offering information that I’ve tested for myself. You respond how you want. It’s up to you.

    Hoo hah. Charlie7 knows what he’s talking about, been there, seen it, lives by it on his better days, but sorry to waste your time with his ‘illogic’ if that’s how it is at your house. Forgive?

    (testing…testing…1, 2, 3)

  • 55. qmonkey  |  August 8, 2008 at 3:00 am

    charlie,
    >>>My reaction is ‘try it, you’ll like it.’ There’s some serious ‘juice’ or ‘light’ that flows down from Above. Seriously.

    i did… for most of my life up til the last 5 of so years. and yes, i did like it… and i miss it. but, truth matters. It’s best to grasp as close to reality as we can, i think.

    may as well tell me ‘try herion, you might like it’ .. well yes, im sure. but….

    >>>2) So its actually unimportant if the bible is reliable? It doesn’t mater if Jesus even existed, or indeed was god… it’s the ‘stories’ that are important?

    >Yes, basically. That’s what I said, and I’m sticking by it

    Charlie… to be honest, you’re not really the kind of ‘Christian’ this is aimed at. ie, a christian who doesnt seem to mind whether or not christ even existed.

    Peg,
    >>Christianity is a reasoned faith but it is not only about reason.

    i guess the point i’ve tried to make in this post is… that as soon as it starts to be about anything other than reason, it fails to be about reason at all.

    The point i’ve tried to make is that it begins with a reasoned decision that the bible is reliable.. with out that decision… nothing else follows. I understand that you don’t accept that.

    you talk about people ‘hearing the call’ … are people who ‘hear the call’ from Allah or Kristna just as correct? or are they deluded? you at least get my point?

  • 56. Charlie7  |  August 8, 2008 at 7:16 am

    q monkey

    Since you ask,
    yes I think I get your point. I disagree, but hey. You’re still a nice person to talk to. Like peg I don’t agree that it’s often ‘a reasoned decision’ but an action response (Hi peg if you read this love love) either to believe or not, a decision to act from a certain attitude because that attitude seems to get best results.

    Lots I could say, I’m trying to be concise, but it’s a big topic, people write books, you know?

    >’As soon as it starts to be about anything other than reason, it fails to be about reason at all’ –but you can see that I don’t agree. Reason is only part of the picture.

    When we start talking about human freedom of mind and heart (if there’s no mental or moral freedom then we’re just arguing automatons and this is all froth on the river of entropy) then reason as conventionally defined (Aristotle, Bertrand Russell) is just not sufficient tool for reality testing. What I am working from is an alternate rationality, if that term computes? Euclidean geometry can’t map Einsteinian space, nor can ‘reason’ as conventionally defined and applied map human mind and heart. (cf. liar paradox, cretan paradox, Godel’s theorem, Hofstadter’s book Godel Escher Bach for starters.)

    So I’m saying (among other things) that we’re starting out there in the craziness of ‘rationalism’ and we’re needing to see how limited our self-knowledge is, we need to escape from that kind of reasoning. It works for diagnosing engine trouble but not for soul self-knowledge.

    So I’m probably not the person you were aiming at—angled for a tuna and caught a mer-man. I thought your question was broader than it seems to be. I think your research question (oops my academic background is showing) is far too narrow, your operational definitions ditto. Sorry if someone told you the Bible is rational, ‘receiving Christ’ a rational decision. It ain’t. The reality testing I’m talking about is something else than simple ‘if this and this then that’ syllogisms. That to me isn’t really reason—or rather is reason of exclusions only, not inclusions; in the real world something can quite often be A and not-A at once. (Your car can even not start for two causes simultaneously). Even in math, whenever you create systems of self-reference (like talking about reason!) you get paradoxes, solutions that say both A and not-A. Every darn time.

    So from my view it’s like you’re using 2-dimensional reasoning trying to map what is a minimum 4 or 5-D reality. Thus your confusions, mistaken exclusions, too-limited questions and definitions—from my view of course.

    As to people who ‘hear the call’ to Krishna being correct? I can only say what I personally have experienced, there’s no room here to build diagram and support with footnotes, (I am writing that book elsewhere;-) that there are always ways to do spiritual reality-testing. But the effective means don’t look ‘reasonable’ sometimes. Dalai lama consults oracles.

    Here’s one key to beyond-reasonable realities, and an example of the ‘circuitry’ I was talking about that so offended Apostate: every newborn infant can recognize love. In the voice, in the eyes, in the rhythms of rocking them. Is that reason? ‘Higher’ reason maybe–If love is real, and I say Let it be.

    Love love Charlie7

  • 57. Peg  |  August 8, 2008 at 7:18 am

    QM,
    If you say “it begins with a reasoned decision” I can agree with that. What the reasoning was about may vary, or at least seem to vary from an experiential point of view.

    re: “as soon as it starts to be about anything other than reason, it fails to be about reason at all” — this is a very modern thought. The ancients (in this case early Christianity and the earlier Jewish culture it grew out of) saw human beings holistically. They would never have thought to separate mind from heart from intuition from psyche the way we do these days. For them it was all one and what effected one part effected all parts. It’s in this sense I say Christianity is reasonable but not only about reason. It addresses the whole person simultaneously.

    Having said that I do get your point about the subjective nature of ‘hearing a call’ and similar religious experiences, absolutely. They can be a bit of a challenge to deal with no matter where we are on the faith spectrum!

  • 58. qmonkey  |  August 8, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Charlie7, i did actualy read G,E,B the golden braid a while ago.. sorry .. it was over my head.. maybe this means im not smart enough to know why i should follow Krishna. Oh, sorry.. it is krishna you’re saying i should follow? or is it vishnu or zeus?

    >>Sorry if someone told you the Bible is rational, ‘receiving Christ’ a rational decision.

    nope… NO ONE told me that… I’m proposing THAT.. thats my proposal. which i haven’t seen successfully debated down in these comments..yet.

    >>>So from my view it’s like you’re using 2-dimensional reasoning trying to map what is a minimum 4 or 5-D reality. Thus your confusions, mistaken exclusions, too-limited questions and definitions—from my view of course.

    ahh , i know that childrens hymn well.

    >>>every newborn infant can recognize love.

    your evidence is……? i love the way you throw down crazy stuff like that, as if its accepted obvious fact

    Peg,

    >>>re: “as soon as it starts to be about anything other than reason, it fails to be about reason at all” — this is a very modern thought.

    im a very modern monkey

    >>They would never have thought to separate mind from heart

    the ‘heart’…?

    Is it not fair to say that the only way to assess whether or not Mohammad received words from an angel, is to approach it rationally? or is there a more accurate and reliable way you are proposing. i havent really grasped that yet

  • 59. ScottL  |  August 8, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Some really good discussions going on back and forth.

    The Apostate –

    You said, ‘The book you are quoting from [Bible] was not written until at least a century after the death of Jesus and was not even accepted into most Bibles for several hundred years – it was even still being debated in the 9th century.’

    First, we must distinguish between the final compilation/written record and simply written record. We all know that the dates for the final compilations of the Gospels is up for debate. Some would claim they were written pre-AD 70, some would claim their compilation right before the end of the first century AD. Either way, this does not infer that none of Jesus’ teachings were preserved in written form prior to the ‘final’ writing and compilation. Plus, we must consider the nature of teaching and story telling in the ancient near eastern culture. Most teachings and stories were committed to and recounted by memory because paper and pen were not always readily available, not to mention it was very, very important for students to remember the teachings and stories of their Rabbi. Thus, the twelve would have, in all probability, committed the core of the teachings and stories of Jesus to heart (it would have been required in their mind as students). Also, they would have been first hand witnesses to almost everything recorded in the Gospels. Not to mention that Jesus made it quite easy for their memory through parables, Jewish imagery, proverbs, riddles, overstatements, etc. This was a very wise practice of those days. And, who is to say they didn’t ‘jot’ some things down. Yeah, there is no evidence there. So I am fine to let it go.

    It’s not that the specific contents of the New Testament were not accepted for several hundred years, but its that there was not a final confirmation until probably around AD 397 at the Third Council of Carthage, though other patriarchs had done some good work on hammering it out such as Athanasius. I would argue that the canon of the NT was still being debated post-9th century. Read some of Luther’s thoughts on Esther, James, and Jude. I don’t know if that invalidates the Biblical testimony. It is rather people still dealing with the questions that many of us ask.

    As one of the foremost scholars of the NT today, F.F. Bruce made a very good statement in his book, ‘The NT Documents: Are They Reliable?’, when he said, ‘The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice.’

    I know no one here is going to necessarily jump at accepting F.F. Bruce’s words. And, as always, not every question is answered. But he wrote a whole book looking at the minor details and ‘discrepancies’, and he came to such a conclusion.

    The Apostate and qmonkey – Thanks for discussing these things through with us Christians, even if you get tired of the arguments.

  • 60. qmonkey  |  August 8, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Scott,

    are you conceding the point… that its a rational decision to accept that the bible is reliable? FF Bruce says it is… i say its not… Bertrand Russell said its not, CS Lewis said it is.. etc etc

    what do you say? how do you decide? cognitive reasoning surely?

    THAT is the point of this post.. .its not debating the validity of any holy book… its just saying that ultimately its a rational decision whether we find them reliable.

    simple point really.

  • 61. ScottL  |  August 8, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I know I just posted a comment, but I have really been thinking through some things. I am glad our discussion has got me thinking.

    The question arises in my mind – For the agnostic (or atheist), could any scholar, theologian, or ‘regular’ Christian ever present enough evidence to ‘win you over’?

    The original article post had this statement, ‘Whether or not the Bible is reliable is a cognitive decision. How do we make cognitive decisions? – through analyzing the evidence. How do we make better decisions? Through application of our intellect and education. It’s obvious, but needs stating, that the better our intellect and education, the more likely we are to make correct analytical decisions.’

    If you were able to analyze all the evidence, and come to a 100% evidenced conclusion of the validity of Scripture, would that then make one want to be a Christian and follow Christ?

    And, considering such a question, can we actually answer every moral, ethical, theological, historical, and scientific question that comes from the reading the Bible? I mean, if we sat down and went through every book of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, stopping at every place we had a question, and someone was able to provide every answer (outside of God?), would that then be the ‘sufficient’ evidence to bring one to be a Christian?

    I know of no Christian who gave that as their test for becoming a Christian. No one. It’s not that we were all ignorant, or willing to look the other way at a discrepancy, or wanting to disregard logical reasoning as a valid part of our analytical makeup as human beings. But the prerequisite for a follower of Christ was not 100% evidence on all matters.

    As an example, I could tell you that Hawaii is the greatest place to vacation. I could show you my own home videos, pictures, even bring you back souvenirs from Hawaii. But, though these thins would sure be great evidence, it would not be the 100% proof that it was the best place to vacation.

    What is the point? The point is that no one can provide 100% verifiable evidence that anything is absolutely true – whether we are talking about Hawaii being the greatest place to vacation or the Scripture being God’s revelation to mankind. The person has to go their himself.

    And when we ‘go there ourselves’, I believe the only prerequisite we have is that we cannot approach it from a skeptical nor cynical point of view. For if one travels to Hawaii all the while believing a ski-resort in Canada is the best place to vacation, guess what? There will never be enough proof that Hawaii is the best.

    For the one who says, ‘I did try Christianity and now I’ve realized it was wrong or insufficient,’ then perhaps we could relate it to the example this way. If someone goes to Hawaii expecting to snow ski and ice skate and do only those things, then guess what? They are going to have a terrible time in Hawaii and come to the conclusion that it is not the best place to vacation.

    My point is that it is possible that he went to Hawaii expecting to snow ski and only found sun and beaches. Going to Hawaii is absolutely amazing, but you cannot go with skepticism, cynicism, or expecting to get snow. It is similar to following Christ. We will never want to follow if we come with a full out skeptical mindset (not questions but overdone skepticism). For, does not skepticism lead down the slippery slope of rejection? Nor can we come with outright cynicism that Christianity is an absurd religion. Nor can we think we are going into a place where we can expect 100% happiness when Christ never promised that (or whatever false expectation we had).

    But, what happens when you arrive in Hawaii and see no snow and know you cannot go ice-skating? You ask reasonable questions to the natives – Where is the snow? Snow, we don’t get snow. It usually stays between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, I didn’t realize that. Where is the ice-skating? Ice-skating? The only ice we have is found in the freezer. Well, what’s this white dusty stuff everywhere? Oh, that’s sand, and the sand makes up our beaches. And we like to lie on the beach, relax, get a suntan, read a book, and jump in the ocean to swim. What is swimming? Etc, etc, etc.

    Questions are asked. And though my example is somewhat elementary, we see that the person began asking reasoned and logical questions to understand the situation where he was first skeptical, cynical, and even had wrong ideas about it all. In the end, some really deep and scientific questions might be answered – When was the last time this volcano erupted and why has it been decades since it’s last? And, of course, he doesn’t ask the hotel manager that. He asks the one that studies volcanoes, the volcanist, or whatever they might be termed. But in the end, many questions will be answered, but not all are going to be answered, possibly such as – Why do you use coriander instead of basil in giving a herbal spice to the pig you are roasting? Someone probably has the answer out there, but the questioning one might not ever find that person to help answer. But he is in Hawaii having the time of his life.

    Science and logic are absolutely amazing and beautiful things. But even they cannot give us all the answers. In the end, we still have to hypothesize, make educated and reasonable guesses, with some of these things. And that’s ok. I don’t disregard science. Even if it puts a strain on a specific theological understanding I had. I wrestle with the two with honesty, with friends, with theologians, with scientists, and yes, even with God. While we use our analytical reasoning to sort through the Scriptures, we also know that our highly finite reasoning skills will not lead us down the path to all answer. And I know in the end, no human discipline can supply all the answers to give 100% evidence of the facts. I can only leave that in the hands of the one I believe is omniscient. And I want to be ready to let my skepticism turn into honest questions, my cynicism melt into humility, and my wrong expectations of Christ and the Scriptures fall under the light that slowly burns brighter and brighter.

  • 62. qmonkey  |  August 8, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Scott, first of all thanks for the comments.
    We won’t admit it, but every blogger lives for comments… its very validating that someone bothers to post a comment. There, its out there :)
    >> The question arises in my mind – For the agnostic (or atheist), could any scholar, theologian, or ‘regular’ Christian ever present enough evidence to ‘win you over’?
    Yes, definitely. It really wouldn’t take much at all. Just some good evidence , wouldn’t really even need proof. But that goes for any religious claim… I’m open to them all equally… no special treatment for Christianity just because that is in my culture.
    >> If you were able to analyze all the evidence, and come to a 100% evidenced conclusion of the validity of Scripture, would that then make one want to be a Christian and follow Christ?
    Of course! Wouldn’t even need 100%… any good evidence of miracles or godness that isn’t hearsay will do.

    And, considering such a question, can we actually answer every moral, ethical, theological, historical, and scientific question that comes from the reading the Bible? I mean, if we sat down and went through every book of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, stopping at every place we had a question, and someone was able to provide every answer (outside of God?), would that then be the ’sufficient’ evidence to bring one to be a Christian?
    I know of no Christian who gave that as their test for becoming a Christian. No one. It’s not that we were all ignorant, or willing to look the other way at a discrepancy, or wanting to disregard logical reasoning as a valid part of our analytical makeup as human beings. But the prerequisite for a follower of Christ was not 100% evidence on all matters.

    Well… you’re making my point for me really.

    As an example, I could tell you that Hawaii is the greatest place to vacation. I could show you my own home videos, pictures, even bring you back souvenirs from Hawaii. But, though these thins would sure be great evidence, it would not be the 100% proof that it was the best place to vacation.
    What is the point? The point is that no one can provide 100% verifiable evidence that anything is absolutely true – whether we are talking about Hawaii being the greatest place to vacation or the Scripture being God’s revelation to mankind. The person has to go their himself.

    Accepted. 100% proof isn’t available. So should we all become muslims, or zues followers or mormons etc etc?

    And when we ‘go there ourselves’, I believe the only prerequisite we have is that we cannot approach it from a skeptical nor cynical point of view. For if one travels to Hawaii all the while believing a ski-resort in Canada is the best place to vacation, guess what? There will never be enough proof that Hawaii is the best.

    we need to assume that miracles and magic stuff doesn’t happen until cognitively convinced otherwise, well.. where would we be then? We MUST approach the claims of Mohammad sceptically… assuming there are wrong until convinced. In the same way you assume im lying when I say I can fly…. Until I can prove it to you (are you wrong to be sceptical)?

  • 63. ScottL  |  August 8, 2008 at 10:43 am

    qmonkey –

    In answer to my question:

    >> The question arises in my mind – For the agnostic (or atheist), could any scholar, theologian, or ‘regular’ Christian ever present enough evidence to ‘win you over’?

    You said –

    Yes, definitely. It really wouldn’t take much at all. Just some good evidence , wouldn’t really even need proof.

    Sounds good. So do we need to trod our way through Genesis today and end up in Revelation in 50 years time? :)

    It’s easy to say that, but I guess we won’t know until we get there. I haven’t authored any books or manuscripts to answer all those questions you have. But, in the 21st century of the western world, don’t you think scholars and theologians have done an incredible job at answering the questions? I guess you haven’t.

    I think it might be circular to voice your conclusion that you would become a follower of Christ if at least most of your questions could be reasonably answered. I don’t know if we will ever get to that point. Someone might answer 20 tough questions, but then you might come back with, ‘Oh, but I have one more,’ and so on. It might be the ‘nature of the beast’.

    I find it even hard that some Christians today don’t believe in miracles (not Jesus’, but present ones). Sure, some people have claimed and done some weird things. But some doing weird does not negate the reality. I guess I could give you testimony of real miracles and healings I know to have taken place (in my life and others), but I guess you would ask for proof from a doctor, which I didn’t think to ask for when it did happen. And then we might end up down the path of them being a psycho-somatic experience, not a true healing. Please know I don’t say any of these things patronizingly, but rather with a yearning inside.

    A possible book with hundreds of miracles and healings with evidenced proof can be found in ‘Megashift’ by James Rutz, if you might be interested.

    But I’m still wondering if you might have gone to Hawaii expecting snow or that it would be like your favorite skiing lodge in Canada?

  • 64. qmonkey  |  August 8, 2008 at 10:52 am

    >>>Sounds good. So do we need to trod our way through Genesis today and end up in Revelation in 50 years time? :)

    Nope. Any evidence will do. To be honest, if you can convince me that Jesus rose from the dead… that would be enough. Even if I wasn’t convinved that he’d done the bread and fishes thing… id still be a Christian if I was convinced that Jesus rose from his own death.

    >>>But, in the 21st century of the western world, don’t you think scholars and theologians have done an incredible job at answering the questions? I guess you haven’t.

    Im not convinced, sorry. I could pretend I was if you’d like… but im not sure that would be enough for you. I’m not alone though…. Its not like EVERYONE in the world thinks that the resurrection happened… in fact only about 30% are Christian. 23% think that Mohammad communed with the angel Gabriel… im not convinced by that either… are you?

    if you want to contine the discussion off-blog, you can email me via by blog… ‘email the monkey’, and ill reply

  • 65. The Apostate  |  August 8, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Charlie7 (comment 54)

    So yes, I’ll accept ‘illogic’ if you say so, since I never claimed to prove anything, just making suggestions, kind of; but I don’t know what your evidence is either?

    You opened with a claim that humans are essentially hardwired for believing, and thus worshiping, God. When you make a statement you sound like a fool if you don’t have any evidence for it whatsoever. If I walked up to you and stated, “All fish are black” and then continued on a diatribe about the reasons why all fish are black and how some are blacker than others, you might be scratching your head – because not all fish are black.
    I am unsure how to answer you when you say “but I don’t know what your evidence is either?” Evidence for what? Evidence that we don’t have a built in circuitry for God? Maybe God is beyond the rules of earthly logic, but you are human, sir, and if you want to make baseless “suggestions” you should do so by human means. If you want to show someone the “truth” of something, you show it to them. It is on the onus of the person who makes a claim to give evidence for it – it is not up to someone who does believes non-x to show that their is no x.

    But please notice that within my statement is at least the implied (logical) possibility for you to find out for yourself…see it for yourself.

    Despite the fact that this makes your faith entirely subjective and most likely relative to your cultural and surroundings, where do you think a “de-convert” comes from? Have you ever seen the movie “Jesus Camp” – if not go rent it, or buy it – I was one of those sort of kids. An evangelical nutjob. Maybe with less emotionalism. My parents are missionaries. I have never had a bad experience with a Christian. I de-converted because the Christian worldview is not coherent and does not match up with reality. You want the evidence? Just check out the rest of our blog or head over to Debunking Christianity. So Charlie, I have “seen it for myself” and I have found it wanting. I did everything I possibly could to keep a faith with integrity. I fought de-conversion to the last bit. I prayed. I fasted. I went liberal. I went emergent. Then I went agnostic. So stop telling me that the only evidence can be found through subjective means because my subjective reality is that Christianity is not just flawed, it is blatantly untrue.

    My position is not based on logic but on direct experience. I saw it. It happened to me. I am a living witness

    What? You saw God?

    I saw two men rob a liquor store when I was 17. There was gunfire. I was on my way to a ZZ Top concert. No logic can prove that either.

    Ummmm…. okay? Nor does it matter if I believe it or not. Should my salvation rely on my believing this story I could probably check it out in an archived newspaper, demand to see the photographs of the bullet holes and interview the people involved. Logic can prove it.

    I believe the bishops’ response to Galileo’s claims was pretty much the same as yours to me: impossible, illogical, heretical.

    Yes, and they said those words without looking at the evidence. They started from the assumption about the earth and heavens from a logically floppy supernatural standpoint and accuse Galileo of being a heretic. Do yourself a favour – don’t compare yourself to Galileo, it cannot go well for you. We are talking about objective observations which were interpreted based on logic (Galileo) versus an a priori belief based on man’s subjective interpretations of vague holy books.

    I am not in the least (I’m laughing) shaken by your … unwillingness to faintly consider my claim as even possibly valid, though you have… no…evidence to disprove it…. but your own…assertive…voice… I too hear ‘a grasping illogical justification’, perhaps?

    I’m glad your laughing – now let’s act like adults. Go back and read my response to you. Take your time. I ridiculed your premise. I said nothing about the truth or what my beliefs are on the subject. Now had you stated that we are hardwired to believe in God based on some recent (and true) genetic discoveries that a certain gene may (or may not) correlate to a belief in God – then I might have been able to engage with you in some reasonable fashion. But instead you gave a New Age sort of response on how to have a seemingly wishy washy attitude of subjective experiences that you have to go out and try for yourself.
    Once again, the onus on me disproving your claim is a logical fallacy. Not that you care for logic. I may as well need to find evidence to disprove pink gay unicorns, orbiting teapots, and the flying spaghetti monster. Where is my grasping illogical justification? What am I justifying? ‘Non-X’ is the default here. You must prove, or give evidence for ‘X’, not its negative.

    An emotional need rationalized? (Sorry but you did ask for it. My swing probably won’t connect anyway, arouse no hostile feelings or anything; but if it does, hey you’re tough, you can take it as well as dish it out. Yee ha.)

    You’re right, it didn’t connect. What emotional need to I have to rationalize? Spell it out for this dumb heathen.

    There is evidence for the ‘circuitry’, but you’re not going to accept it just on my sayso. I seriously doubt anything I say could even slightly scratch your disbelief.

    Who are you? God?

    One piece of ‘evidence’ I can offer (but doubt it will touch you at all, Apostate): pretty much every religion from shamanism to Christianity, Buddhism etc. has essentially the same imagery of illumination

    It took you this long to answer my question? Geez Charlie, couldn’t you skip all the bullshit and just answer the damn question?
    Now lets talk about this. Lets disregard, for the moment, the problems this poses for Christian doctrine since I am sure there are many theological explanations for that. You say that this common element of “illumination” in world cultures (via means of the outlet of religious views) is evidence for our circuitry?
    Wouldn’t a simpler interpretation for this be that we look up every day and see a big massive sun? Whether we understood its chemical compunds or what its natural relation is to us, we knew that it gave us warmth and daylight and therefore life and safety. Life requires the sun, the source of our light, and even the earliest humans could recognize it. Isn’t that reason enough to practically worship it – in all our various symbolic ways? Isn’t our lack of safety, especially before the invention of fire and then modernity’s eletrical lights, in the dark reason enough to equate darkness with evil?

    My wife is named Teresa. She’s plump and cute. You’ve never met her, have no reason to believe she exists. But your disbelief does not undermine my knowledge. How can it?

    I am pretty sure this is the same argument you used with the ZZ Top concert. But say hi to Teresa for me. Now if not believing in Teresa condemned me to hell, I would probably search your IP address, easily get your phone number, find your address and be able to confirm that the person who registered the name “Charlie7″ does, indeed, have a wife named Teresa (whether she is plump or not, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder).

    . So I am probably wasting my time when I say that I have been in the room when people saw God for the first time. Repeatedly. My kids see God. My wife. My friends.

    Ah! So you have seen God! Since you are not dead I must not take literally those parts in the Bible about people dropping dead upon seeing God. How was he? Could you tell him to stop by my place, or at least ask him why he didn’t come by when I was doing everything I could to hold on to my belief in him. Could you do that for me?

    y friends. It’s kind of a personal practical thing, though—like sex. I can tell you it’s fun, but you really need to try it for yourself. Someone who’s never had an orgasm could deny that the ‘circuitry’ exists in pretty much the same terms….I hear some people have never had sex.

    You definitely have quite the imagination. Funny thing – sex is self-apparent. We are born with biological genitilia and figure out fairly quickly where it goes. Again, be there done that – for both. Its sad though, that God would make sex more “real” than himself.

    By the way, seeking God out is kind of risky. (Like love or sex.) It puts pressure on you to change. It makes you responsible for stuff you’re getting away with now. If you start then chicken out (it happens a lot), you become a hypocrite, religious or otherwise. So maybe you’re better off as you are, Apostate. (Smile.)

    Oh okay, it was my fault. I didn’t change enough. I didn’t try hard enough.
    No, I didn’t purposely put myself in a position where my Christianity looked more like New Age crap – my Christianity would be experiential AND reasonable. It failed on both accounts. So far.

    Apostate, I’m not responsible to your logic, really, am I? I’m only offering information that I’ve tested for myself. You respond how you want. It’s up to you.

    Hoo hah. Charlie7 knows what he’s talking about, been there, seen it, lives by it on his better days, but sorry to waste your time with his ‘illogic’ if that’s how it is at your house. Forgive?

    My logic? Sorry sir, logic is logic. Unlike subjective experiential religiousity, logic remains whether we understand it or not. I don’t think you’ve tested everything. I know I haven’t. I tested Christianity – but I haven’t tested ‘shrooms or Voodoo. Or maybe I didn’t test the right Christianity, maybe you could help this dumb heathen out again and teach me Charlie’s Way.

    I am glad you are living by it on your better days. I had lots of those too. Some good stuff in that incoherent belief system. I’ve always wanted to try out Buddhism myself, but it just seems to damn hard. Couldn’t leave my wife and kids in search of some spiritual enlightenment. I suppose Jesus would have been disappointed in me for that too. I wouldn’t have cut it as one of his “obedient” disciples.

  • 66. john t.  |  August 8, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Apostate.

    Im curious. How can a man of your intellect have stayed so faithful for so long when the discrepancies and contradictions of Christianity are so obvious?

  • 67. Rover  |  August 8, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Apostate,

    This is a difficult question to ask because there really is no good way to ask it but here it goes. You seem a little impatient and nasty at times even with our de con peers. Am I just reading into your words or is this the case? I am not asking because I am worried about being insulted. I am insecure anyway so I am generally in a state of feeling insulted.:) But seriously, I am curious. Has your tolerance for our “inane” questions and responses worn you out? Do you enjoy interacting with us or is it something you are just addicted to? I also wonder if you and others replace being an “expert” in theology with being and “expert” in atheism. I feel that if I ever deconvert I might be drawn in that direction as well, ie, being a source of all things de con-like. I would probably exchange one form of evangelism for another. That’s just how i am.
    Really I am just curious. I would say, “don’t be offended by my questions”, but I don’t think that is necessary! :)

  • 68. Rover  |  August 8, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    oops, meant “your” decon peers. oh dear

  • 69. The Apostate  |  August 8, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    john t.
    De-conversion does not necessarily have anything to do with intellect. I know many intellectual Christians that are much brighter than myself. The question is whether you can be as critical towards your own faith as you are with other belief systems. I know I wasn’t, mostly because I grew up in an evangelical household. I believe that if any Christian held their Christianity up to the same standard of skepticism they hold of others that their faith would be done for.

    Rover

    You seem a little impatient and nasty at times even with [y]our de con peers.

    I don’t tip-toe around subjects. I also don’t personally attack anyone (not true, I have during two or three heated discussions, but immediately apologized for it).

    Has your tolerance for our “inane” questions and responses worn you out?

    Questions – no. I do grow tired of being preached to because that is the purpose of our site.

    Do you enjoy interacting with us or is it something you are just addicted to?

    Both. I enjoy interacting with people who genuinely ask questions or debate on a level that gives their faith a reasonable credibility. The majority of my frustration recently has been that we seem to be flooded in the past month or so with narrow-minded fundamentalists that are bent on preaching to the deconverted.

    also wonder if you and others replace being an “expert” in theology with being and “expert” in atheism.

    I am not an expert in either. I know much about theology because that was my previous academic study before switching to Philosophy and Religious Studies. I don’t know if one can be an expert in atheism, but you certainly can know much about the natural world – of which I am but a babe.

    I feel that if I ever deconvert I might be drawn in that direction as well, ie, being a source of all things de con-like. I would probably exchange one form of evangelism for another.

    Evangelism literally means “good news”, does it not? So I hope so. I am an evangelistic agnostic. Maybe this is why you think I like to get on people’s nerves (of either theistic or atheistic tendencies). The good news of agnosticism is that you can admit that you don’t have to know everything about the world and that you can delay major life decisions until their is evidence for it. “Good” evangelical parents, such as my own, want their kids raised as good evangelical children. However, this is like expecting a kid to get married at the age of 7 – we simply aren’t capable of such a mature and life long decision. The good news of agnosticism is that there may be better philosophical perspectives than the one you know of best – whether it is atheist or Christian (or Buddhist, or Hindu, or Wiccan, etc.). Perhaps it is best to live an ad hoc amalgamation of different worldview sets, but that is what agnosticism allows you to discover. And many Christians know this – but I haven’t seen much of our resident seminarians or theologians around.

    Really I am just curious. I would say, “don’t be offended by my questions”, but I don’t think that is necessary!

    I do my best not to be a hypocrite. I don’t expect others to tip-toe around my feelings. If it is true, I hope I’ll recognize it. I have been shown to be foolish more than once.

    ScottL
    There’s been a lot of activity recently – I will do my best to get back to your comment both here and on my blog when I have more time.

  • 70. Rover  |  August 8, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Apostate:

    thank for you for the response to my questions and the links you provided in the other post.

    asa lama lakem

  • 71. Quester  |  August 8, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Scott,

    The question arises in my mind – For the agnostic (or atheist), could any scholar, theologian, or ‘regular’ Christian ever present enough evidence to ‘win you over’?

    Absolutely! Most of us are deconverts, after all. So we have experience changing our minds after examining evidence.

    Very few of us are asking for 100% proof of anything. We just want some reliable evidence of God’s existence, character and will. If I can’t believe God exists, I can not follow God. If I do not know of God’s character, I can not know which God to follow. If I do not know God’s will, I can not know which way to follow.

    The Bible is a poor source of evidence for any of those areas, as it keeps contradicting itself (at least in terms of God’s character and will). Do you have anything else you can offer?

    As an example, I could tell you that Hawaii is the greatest place to vacation. I could show you my own home videos, pictures, even bring you back souvenirs from Hawaii. But, though these thins would sure be great evidence, it would not be the 100% proof that it was the best place to vacation.

    No, but it would at least be evidence that Hawaii exists. What I have experienced is more along the lines of getting on a plane as a child, and being told I’m going to Hawaii. No one knows exactly what Hawaii is; that’s a mystery. There’re certain it is the best place to vacation, though.

    The trip takes years, but we’re assured we’re going to get there. The plane is small, so we’re told how to behave so as to minimize struggle on the flight. People being people, they fight anyway. Several factions form. Some believe Hawaii has white sand and volcanoes. Some believe Hawaii has snow and ice. All believe they are going to Hawaii. Frequently, different people collect money to pay for fuel for the flight.

    As I grow up, I get trained to be a pilot. Eventually, I get to sit in the cockpit and direct the plane to Hawaii on behalf of all the other passengers. I realize, then, that all the maps disagree on where Hawaii is. There is no way for me to know which direction to fly the plane.

    I study and struggle for three years, hoping to see some landmark or some clear route. Failing, I ask to be replaced by another pilot and be allowed off of the plane.

    When I get off, I realize the plane has no engine and has never left the ground.

    I’d like to believe in “Hawaii”, still. But I sure wasn’t getting there on that plane. I see no evidence anyone else is getting there, either.

    You see what I’m saying?

  • 72. Peg  |  August 8, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Is it not fair to say that the only way to assess whether or not Mohammad received words from an angel, is to approach it rationally? or is there a more accurate and reliable way you are proposing. i haven’t really grasped that yet

    re: Mohammad – One question I haven’t worked through yet to my own satisfaction is how to work with historical evidence, and how much of it needs to be gathered before it can be considered ‘proof’. I trust that history happened but I am also aware that many have manipulated the details to suit their own purposes. I’d give a small fortune to discover the diary of an everyday farmer’s wife from around 30AD (or from the time of Mohammad, etc — assuming she’d been taught to write!)

    On conversion, I think the reason I hesitate to say “it’s all rational” is because Christianity is primarily about a relationship Comparing it to human relationships, we have reasons for loving the people we love. Does reason come first or does something else bring the relationship into being? Quite honestly I don’t know, never really thought much about it.

    So I’ve given you two solid “I don’t knows”! The first question I intend to spend more time on in my studies. The second… how does it begin? I tend to shy away from answering that question because it tends to lead into the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate. There’s a lot of pain in that argument, and far too many people have been hurt (even killed) trying to settle it. IMO no good solution has ever been arrived at other than “both are true” (and then leave it alone).

    If you ignore the Protestants, the other traditional answers can be found in (a) the sacramental / catholic experience (people meet God through the sacraments), or (b) the early church, made up of people who either knew Jesus personally or knew someone who knew Him. Both of these focus on history and experience, not to the exclusion of reason, but not relying on reason alone. Personally I tend toward a funky combo of a & b.

    The problem is these sets of beliefs don’t appeal to the modern/rational mind. The Protestants usually do, though… have you read any Calvin (not to be confused with CalvinISTS) and if so, what did you think of him?

  • 73. Rover  |  August 8, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Peg,

    Both Calvanists and Armininians and I have been both start in the same place. So to your question as to where it begins, it begins with God reaching out to us, drawing us back to Him.

    Calvin himself was, like most of us Christians, a confused individual. He actually contradicted his own teachings on more then a few occassions. Calvin wasn’t actually a very good theologian, nor was he all that moral. Calvinists will say that he wasn’t so bad, after all he only killed one man, but that’s a little odd don’t you think?

  • 74. Oleander  |  August 8, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Did he kill Arminius?

  • 75. Peg  |  August 8, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Oleander… LOL

    Rover… if we’re going to discount a person’s work because he contradicts himself now and then we’ll be left with absolutely no-one’s words to consider, including yours and mine. I suggested Calvin for reading because he is a very systematic thinker, well suited to rationalism, and has a lot to say about how people come to faith. Other options might include CS Lewis and John Stott (both a bit more modern and never killed anyone to my knowledge ;) )

    re: “it begins with God reaching out to us” – absolutely, I totally agree. God is *always* reaching out to us. I think QM’s question though is taken from the point of view of the searcher — does a person call themselves “Christian” when they’ve accepted the Bible as reliable / believable?

    QM — After a little more thought, I think maybe faith begins when a person accepts the concept of a “higher power”, the existence of a being greater than ourselves who created the universe and maintains it. Although belief in a higher power by itself doesn’t make a person a Christian, without that foundation any religious text would be… well, not only irrelevant but ridiculous.

    Side note FWIW – a fragment of a thought – Whenever people would ask Mother Teresa about the faith, her reply was always “Come see”. Jesus gave the same answer to some of his first disciples. I still think there’s something to be said for more than just thinking about the faith… using only the mind to understand conversion is (to me) like using only the sense of smell to understand gourmet food.

    (BTW Quester – I think I had that very same experience on an airplane at the Newark Airport once…)

  • 76. Charlie7  |  August 9, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    q monkey

    ah, thank you for reading my comments. But we obviously aren’t connecting, …sigh … I guess I am just kind of a traditional monkey in some ways, don’t really like some things about the modern world, etc. … so after this if you have no more questions for me I’ll stop wasting your time with my childish ideas…

    from your post 58, my comments, your responses, my responses to your responses…

    1.>>me >> Sorry if someone told you the Bible is rational, ‘receiving Christ’ a rational decision.

    >>q monkey>>nope… NO ONE told me that… I’m proposing THAT.. thats my proposal. which i haven’t seen successfully debated down in these comments..yet.

    My response : OK, that’s clear, and that’s what I’m trying to debate (respectfully) and why we’re not connecting:
    ^A. I’m saying your proposal itself is wrong. That ‘getting’ the bible is not a rational move but a response to something not measurable by aristotelian/cartesian/russellian logic. If you try to deal with it mostly on that level you will miss the point, get on the wrong bus to who knows where?
    ^B. It’s my observation that people arguing ‘rational’ positions on religion (pro or con) are usually arguing rationalized emotion or something else; the decision itself is based on assumptions, choices etc, prior to reason. Reason only works once you’ve made basic assumptions, laid out basic definitions, etc. Their called axioms, postulates, etc.

    2. Me >>>So from my view it’s like you’re using 2-dimensional reasoning trying to map what is a minimum 4 or 5-D reality. Thus your confusions, mistaken exclusions, too-limited questions and definitions—from my view of course.

    >> q monkey ahh , i know that childrens hymn well.

    My response: So here was one part of my attempt to ‘debate down’ your proposal and you don’t really ENGAGE it, just toss it aside like a monkey would a $20 gold piece. I don’t know why it’s a ‘children’s hymn’. It’s even that way in physics. No one can even do the nonlinear calculus for a ‘three body’ gravitational problem, it’s too complex… too many vectors, ‘degrees of freedom’ or in my ANALOGY (I said ‘it’s like’) too many dimensions to analyze rationally. Why should that same type of reason–syllogisms and either/or logic, etc.–that doesn’t even give the correct answer in a problem in Newtonian physics, work for something as complex as (if it exists) a spiritual relationship among godhead-, savior/mediator, and divine creature-child, especially if there’s forces of darkness and confused masses of humanity thrown in? ‘Yes, Jesus loves me’ is a children’s hymn. That doesn’t disprove it.

    Dismissing something as a ‘children’s hymn’ is not a serious argument; you’re simply rejecting my premises and the conclusions I draw from them with no evidence that I’m wrong and you’re right.

    3. >>>every newborn infant can recognize love.

    >q monkey >>your evidence is……? i love the way you throw down crazy stuff like that, as if its accepted obvious fact

    Do you love it? Seems not. And, well, gosh, it kind of is obvious, if you really pay attention to newborns, and it is kind of ‘accepted fact’ if you read the research literature on newborns. Here’s some ‘evidence’ but you would have to do the fact-checking/reality testing FOR YOURSELF, hey?
    A. I’ve held several newborn infants (I’m four times a dad and know people with kids, etc.) and talked to them and watched them respond; so I have a personal witness (my personal testimony in a trial could possibly send someone to jail for life, so is perhaps worth at least A LITTLE attention here? )
    B. If you READ psychological research of the past 20-30 years it’s all there; infants with depressed mothers are depressed, show different body language when spoken to in different tones of voice, respond variously to ‘loving’ and ‘angry’ eye contact, etc.
    C. Talk to doctors and mothers: infants respond to love, anger, depression in the mother. They recognize emotions. Why else to people almost instinctively talk to babies the way we doo, cooing and soothingly? They hear it, feel it.
    D. Even your PUPPY for goshsakes can tell when you’re angry or pleased. Why not an infant? Why is that a ‘crazy’ statement, when it IS in fact both obvious and widely accepted?
    So I am rather puzzled at your dismissive attitude; not sure what it suggests… what kind of discussion is this I’ve stumbled into? Are we even in the same…reality?

    What chance is there I will be heard in a discussion where the actual ‘obvious and accepted facts’ are dismissed as ‘crazy stuff’?? There’s no point at all in my telling you the REALLY crazy stuff, is there?

    So yes, I AM saying that your reason (or mine) is too weak a tool to serve for reality testing the area of God, Biblical truth, etc..

    Sorry, too, for an earlier faux pas; I guess I DID imply that in your ‘believer’ stage you were not a ‘real Christian’. I didn’t mean to offend, if I did, but I WOULD say that
    A. There is a ‘Jesus’ who can be personally met–I’ve met him, he’s as real to me as my mom or my wife or my kids. I have taken people to see him (metaphor) and they have ‘met’ him too.
    B. No one who has really met him can ‘rationally’ deny him–he’s just THERE.
    C. Therefore, either/both:
    i. you never actually METJesus and so were not a real christian or
    ii. you are not now rational

    See, I can work a syllogism. The real disagreement is not in the reasoning as such, I’m fully capable of being as ‘rational’ as you are (that’s not saying much, in my view) Where we really differ is not in ‘reason’ but in
    A. the subjective experiences we reason from (I know him as a reality, you as an idea) and in
    B. the resulting premises we reason with –I assume god and spiritual forces to be as real and undebateable as stones and water while you view them as concepts, abstractions, ideas.

    So at least please understand, I’ve said it every time and I’ll say it once more, what I am saying is that God, etc. is not a matter of reasoning but of direct experience. We only know about physics because we measure stuff. God is harder to measure, but there are means–and the ethical principles of the Bible, worship, prayer are parts of the means. I can have a telescope that I don’t know how to use; and you can have a valid religion that you don’t see anything through.

    People make mistakes about what they saw during a robbery, give erroneous testimony, put the wrong person in jail for the crime–but that doesn’t mean a robbery didn’t take place. People make mistakes about religion, but that doesn’t mean god is not real and knowable.

    Like what Peg says in post 75, it’s a ‘come and see’ deal. If you won’t come or you don’t see, & you reject our witness as subjective and illogical, then there’s no basis to reason from … one way or the other. Galileo’s telescope: look or don’t;-).

    so love and blessings and all that stuff, and
    good luck with your project to rationalize the unreasonable

    Ccharliemonkey7 over and out

  • 77. qmonkey  |  August 9, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    That ‘getting’ the bible is not a rational move but a response to something not measurable by aristotelian/cartesian/russellian logic.

    So you think it’s out of my control? a gift from god ?That’s the progression of your logic. I can’t of course fool myself into believing something… i either believe it or i don’t

    Im not sure how any of your ‘infant’ experience is any kind of evidence that infants are born with Love. Love is difficult to define at the best of times… yet you throw it out there as a premise for an argument… this was my point, that you’d based a debating thrust on such a shaky tenant. Surely it’s then reasonable for me to ask you to define love.

    A. There is a ‘Jesus’ who can be personally met–I’ve met him, he’s as real to me as my mom or my wife or my kids. I have taken people to see him (metaphor) and they have ‘met’ him too.

    As real as your mon or wife? I’m sorry… I’m going to have to assume that you are not of sane mind. Maybe you are, and you’re actualy just joking… but im not sure.

    Let me put it to you….. if tomorrow evening, a man came to you, and performed obvious miracles in front of you, flew, raised himself from the dead etc etc … and told you that HE was the Jewish messiah, and that Jesus wasn’t. There is NOTHING that has happened to you in your life that you couldn’t then think of as misguided delusion.

    THAT is true, you know it… and I know it. So it hurts your cause to over play your hand with ‘There is a ‘Jesus’ who can be personally met–I’ve met him, he’s as real to me as my mom or my wife or my kids’ ….if that is true then you have zero need for faith.

  • 78. silentj  |  August 9, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    qmonkey,

    I didn’t read the whole argument, so this is kind of tangent. However, people keep saying that atheists wouldn’t believe anything if it was right in front of them. Your point about this new messiah is a good one. I believe the atheist and Christian alike would likely believe.

    The difference: The atheist simply said there was no point to believe without any evidence. The evidence is now provided. For the Christian, a whole lot of intellectual and spiritual back-bends are going to have to occur to explain it.

    Of course, a guy isn’t going to be able to perform miracles and do all of that stuff. So, we’re all safe.

  • 79. mohmood  |  August 10, 2008 at 12:22 am

    reg:peg query 72:
    Although; the qeury is not addressed to me; yet; the nature of query pertains to islamic theology as such; i shall assume that i may join the comment to answer to my best ability.the question whether; religion and religiious behviour based on religious beliefs; concepts and practices could be based on rationale worth proof and demonstration? it also includes the its historicity based on fool proof evidence. connecting; thus; whether the holy prophet{mohammed}{pbnh} had the occassion to recive angelic messages ;and’ could it be rationaly examined being the truthful event of history?to my little knowledge holy quran testifies and confirms the existence of prophets of isreal/christains prior to birth of prophet {Mohammad} {pbuh}. All those prophets hadvirtues of supernatural powers bestowed upon them by Almighty GOD to make believe the people that they are GOD sent; as miracles being so close to truth which physicaly could be easily observed and believed in.Thus holy prophet jusses had the power of reverting the dead into life; which fact bioliogy may find little acceptable and so on and so forth.the concept of miracle being the cude truth to equate the physical senses of human being with one slogan that “GOD professeth by human being in different capacity of cosmology and earthy powers” are nothing but fictions different and declining in powers; as such one alone GOD exists mighty to all other things known in concept as monothesisim”THe prophet
    Mohammad {pbuh} being latest fact of history has itself testified the existence of other prohets of isreal of which you are finding the historical truths.may be finding this concept of theology the Bertrand Russell held ” obervation is the guarantee of truth”If histroy is to be mathematically calculated; can we infer the truth of history pertaining to greek knoweldge and philosophy which had taken place even prior to the birth of prophets.please remind me if iam missing to quote properly.

  • 80. Charlie7  |  August 11, 2008 at 9:05 am

    q monkey

    Ok, you keep asking questions so I’ll answer in response to your post #77. I find these efforts to reason with you clarifying to my own thoughts, so here goes…

    >>out of my control? (I.e. the response to god, the choice of faith, etc.)

    No, just out of your ‘rational’ control. Yeah, it’s a cliche: love is higher than intellectual analysis. Someone said ‘the heart has reasons of its own’. You know, the metaphorical heart ‘that pumps not blood but love / through our lives’?

    Where did we in the West get this idea that somehow being ‘rational’ means being in control? No time to go into it, but some of the most irrational people I’ve ever met have been ‘rationalists’–and you flat out couldn’t talk to them in any language but their own narrowly defined terms…and I’m starting to get that feeling (oops, I’m FEELING something, they’ll think I’m irrational, even insane!) again here…

    I make insane-sounding statements—but do I really sound insane? Maybe it’s my habit of making digressions…

    >>ask you to define love

    ooh, good one, REALLY a good question, sincerely–but if you only want to pin me like a bug (ouch) this would do it, because I don’t have time to …rationally …define all the terms I’ll use, etc, so your meeting me half-way on this might be needed…. But here goes…

    Love is a feeling not a thought. Love is an emotion, like anger or sadness or joy, a motivational state of the organism, NOT a concept or belief, rational or otherwise.

    Since love is a key to biblical faith–if you believe the bible which says ‘faith works by love’ and ‘no love no faith’ and ‘God is love’ (see 1 John for those last two)—biblically faith is of love and is not rooted in the reason, then biblical faith is by definition NOT a matter of reason.

    Oversimplifying somewhat, love comes in two basic forms, the self-centered kind (‘I love you when you make me feel good’) and the giving or we-centered kind (‘I love you when we feel this way together’); the latter includes the REALLY giving kind (‘I want you to feel good/ have a good day even though it costs me something’)–like the mother who patiently walks the floor all night with her sick infant—or the man who dies that his friend might live. That’s love.

    This second kind of love is what I’m talking about. It focuses not on ‘me’ but on ‘you’ and ‘us’. Sabes? Still a mystery?

    Love is the higher — sorry, that probably means nothing to you, rationalists tend to be ‘flat earth’ types in this area — love is the higher emotion (centered in ‘we’ not ‘I’) that begins to rise up in me when I make a choice to do something unselfish; and it is a feeling that helps keep me motivated when it gets a little hard to stick to my commitments.

    This second, ‘we’ or ‘you’-centered love is the motivational state of caring about someone or something outside oneself, often as much as or more than one cares about oneself.

    Rationalists (a category in which you have placed yourself with your insistence on believing as a ‘rational’ decision) tend to deny that this kind of love exists and to trace all love back to some form of self-gratification. It is not necessarily ‘rational’ to sacrifice yourself for someone or something beyond yourself, sure—but when did I ever agree that humans are, can be or even should be purely ‘rational’ in the common, limited sense of the word? Love, man, it’s the love.

    And are you seriously telling me that your dog can’t tell whether you’re feeling love or anger toward it? Do you have a dog? Does it love you? People’s dogs risk their own lives for their masters, for their masters’ children. It’s the love, man; even dogs got it.

    Are you seriously telling me that you don’t believe that an infant can recognize when its mother is feeling that ‘I would kill or die for you’ emotion? Maybe you’re the one who’s crazy… Whack a bear cub in his momma’s presence and you’ll get the idea. Are you so choked up in that whole part of the spectrum of human experience that ‘love’ is actually an unreality in your world? Wow.

    This explains a lot. You don’t know what love is. ‘God is love’, so you don’t know what God is. I get it now.

    By the way, my personal experience was only ONE of several types of evidence I offered on the infant thing…you seem to be blocking parts of my argument … remember I mentioned decades of lab research, check out the psych and child development journals, obliquely hinted you should get a better education before you mock your elders….

    …and no, you have no reason to respect my experience … in fact we have no reason … but common humanity … and love … to respect each others’ experiences, feelings or sincerity…my ‘infant’ experiences need mean no more to you than your ‘there’s no Jesus’ experiences (I assume you ARE reasoning from some kind of observational and not just out of thin air??) mean to me…as evidence for…anything at all…

    Why must I be either sane or joking to say Jesus is real, people can meet Him? The whole premise of Christianity and almost all other religions is that spiritual things are real. Angels, etc. If I seriously say that I’ve seen something ‘in the spirit’ and seen other people see it, and you say I must be crazy or insincere/pulling your leg, then

    THERE’S SOMETHING IN YOUR PREMISES THAT EXCLUDES MY EVIDENCE OR WITNESS BEFORE IT’S EVEN GIVEN.

    You’ve clearly made some assumption/s (such as that spiritual things can’t be ‘real’ in the same way my mom and wife are ‘real’) for which you have offered no positive evidence that I can recall )-; and I’m not sure but I would guess your only EVIDENCE for your view is that you’ve never had a solid, replicable spiritual experience? Is this whole discussion simply your disappointment talking?

    (I’m being a little rude, and I hope you will forgive me. Rationalism tends to produce that kind of discussion; only love smooths the way…but since you don’t recognize the validity of that term…)

    I know, though you don’t, that I am working here with years of reality testing, replication and consensual validation of my spiritual experiences. I talk to people, Christians Buddhists traditional Native Americans; I participate in their services, etc. And they’re on to something real. When I ‘see’ something, and I ask others ‘did you see that?’ and they did, and the describe what I also saw, then it’s hard for me to be moved by your rather feeble skepticism. I’m not just making this stuff up.

    Hey, let’s try something. Let’s trade war stories. I promise to believe that you saw, felt, experienced what you say you did; you give similar cautious respect to my witness.

    What’s your basis for your views? Rational analysis needs DATA. What’s your data?

    In fact, in my experiential reality (and among the many, many people I share that reality with) I’m way more sane than you, since you are caught up in conceptual flights of fancy—and since you can’t even recognize or acknowledge the presence of love in its most commonly recognizeable forms, and have to ASK FOR A DEFINITION. What’s with that?

    By the way, try looking at pretty much any bible dictionary…I’m not working in some personal fantasy world here, I’m using the same English language as everyone else.

    Your typical religion is confused, yes. It’s kind of like chemistry in the 1500-1600’s, where people mixed their fantasies with real lab results; that’s why religion is such a mess, like alchemy was then; but that doesn’t prove there’s nothing going on in the test tube, does it?

    If a guy came up to me and performed miracles and then said my WIFE wasn’t real, since I know her to be real I would have to conclude that he was a) a black magician, demon or other evil doer b) insane c) pulling my leg d) all of the above

    And don’t accuse me of believing in black magic; you’re the one who hypothesized miracles!!

    ‘zero need for faith’ — firstly I don’t think I’ve really used that term ‘faith’ very much, I keep saying more like ‘seeing is believing’, don’t I?

    I wrote somewhere here–perhaps to Apostate–that the usual definition of faith as mental belief is WRONG, and no I DONT need that kind of faith to ‘believe in Jesus’. I can go talk to Him and get a response. Didn’t anyone ever point out to you that the Bible clearly promises us that God will answer us? A christianity that doesn’t practice that is not biblical….

    Let me say this as clearly as I can. FAITH AS ACTUALLY PORTRAYED IN THE BIBLE ISN’T ABOUT MENTAL AGREEMENT, IT’S ABOUT A CHANGE IN THE HEART, AND ABOUT WHAT YOU DO WHEN FACED WITH A CHALLENGE. That’s pretty orthodox doctrine in any denomination, though you wouldn’t always know it from how they evangelize.

    I’ll put it this way. I ‘met’ Jesus in 1978. Boom. But in the years since then I have–many many times–gotten freaked out, angry, selfish in some way, hurt or sad, or just been stupid, and started acting as if he wasn’t real. But every time I kind of come to my senses, turn toward him in prayer, acknowledge his presence and his … authority (ouch?), then he’s still there, miracles happen, etc.

    So having the wits, the courage, the humility to turn to God over and over again when the pressure comes on you–that’s faith. Not some wimpy belief system that collapses on itself when it’s tested…oh, my…

    That’s one reason (of many; look for the book when it comes out (-;) that I say that a lot of people who will tell you they believe in the bible, they believe in Jesus, bla bla bla, aren’t ‘real’ christians; their faith is not ‘rooted and grounded in love'; they’re not walking the talk; it’s not changing them from the inside out. It’s ‘all in their heads’, so to speak.

    Well, there it is. Bible itself says of the faith not that it’s ‘rooted and grounded in reason’ but that it’s ‘rooted and grounded in love’. That’s either in Ephesians or Colossians.

    So if you approach the bible as a ‘rational’ proposition, not a call to recognize and respond to love, then you’ve already denied its validity. You’ve already excluded that to which the Bible gives witness.

    It’s not belief, rational or otherwise, that makes faith real and gives us ‘eyes’ to see God; it’s love. Faith without love is dust and beetles’ wing covers–shiny but brittle and useless.

    It’s not belief but love that makes faith real. ‘God is love’. ‘Faith works by love’ (Galatians ch. 6 I think)

    If we meet only on the level of reason, I can’t really do much but reply to your questions and mock (I confess it) at what I see as YOUR PROFOUND ILLOGIC.

    But on the level of love, I can wish you well, ask forgiveness for any flippant rudenesses I may have committed, cry ‘pax’ to the conflict, forge ahead patiently. In love I can recognize how much time out of both our too-short lives we have spent on this, precious and irrecoverable moments, and I can hope and pray that you benefit from them in some way. I can express the sincere hope that we would take delight in each other’s company if we ever met, and I can apologize for my fellow Christians who seem to have misled you in some way about the nature of our … faith…it’s all about the love…

    it’s nothing without the love…not mental belief but faith in unflinching love…

    I wish you lots and lots and lots of love, including ‘infant experiences’, (get the puns there? ‘born again’ ‘become as a little child’? hoo ha) in your life.

    “The angels gather ’round to hear me sing my love”—do you hear it too? Prob’ly not. Too late. Too bad. It’s nice.

    May the best of all come to you
    ch-ch-charliemonkey7

  • 81. qmonkey  |  August 11, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Charlie, who are you tryign to convince? me or yourself…

    Even if it is at the very least ‘reasonable’ to look at the evidence to conclude that miraculous events probably didn’t happen… then I think for me, and for you (if you are truly open minded) THAT should be enough to leave Christianity alone.
    What kind of loving god would let this be the case – trickery of the worst kind.

    If you however decide to lower your standards of logic and critical analysis to “accommodate”, then there is no good reason why you should not lower it further and accept other miracle/god/alien claims. (you’d probably admit that this is what all ‘other’ religious have done… just not Christianity… and they say the say about you)

    I might be wrong… but so might you, and you must accept that. But if you ‘want’ to believe something enough, we humans have a great capacity for post rationalizing our decisions. (you and me both of course)… its a mater of deciding on the best decision making tools. Whilst all the time accepting that there are things which we don’t yet know, and don’t have the tools too (yet)… known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. Observe the religious (faith) delusion in others.. then critically analyze your self, as i have done, and sill do.

    [by the way… no one ever reads comments past about number 20 – its just you and me here]

  • 82. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 11, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Whoa, wall of text. I got maybe half-way through it. qmonkey, why bother engaging with this guy at all? It’s clear he’s not interested in a rational discussion, and bases all his faith on subjective experience and feelings. He’s not convincing anyone here, and we’re not convincing him, so what’s the purpose of this “discussion?”

  • 83. Charlie7  |  August 11, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    q monkey

    well, this is winding down. No, I’m convinced, just trying to formulate ‘feelings’ and intuitions into English concepts.

    and one more time: I’m not talking about miracles two thousand years ago, or what god spoke 2000 years agone. It’s just as real now, and that’s the only basis on which I’ll affirm or validate anyone’s ‘spiritual’ thing: can you show me the love NOW?

    did you notice me saying that I have and do analyze experiences, beliefs, wishful thinking in myself and people around me? Have you missed my repeated uses of terms like ‘reality testing’, ‘experiential’ etc.? Your suggestion to critically analyze self for delusions is about 35 years behind the times…trip on…

    again, I don’t have to accept that I might be wrong about my wife being a real person…why should I question that when I hugged her just a few minutes ago? And we’ve been together for 28 years through some tough times, so I’m pretty sure I’m not deluded in my faith that she loves me…

    It’s almost like you’re not actually reading what I wrote…It’s not just you and me…I’m gone

    Your critique of my personal knowledge of God is no more valid than your critique of my personal knowledge of my wife, from where I stand.

    Snuggy buffalo: we clearly have different ideas about what is ‘rational’–I see my wife, other people see her, why should your demand for some esoteric ‘proof’ shake my convictions? That’s what would be crazy and irrational

    same for your argument that ‘feelings and subjective experience’ are invalid basis for faith. I’m saying that’s all you have anyway–you and me both. If my method works for knowing I have a wife and kids who love me, then why not for knowing ditto about God? But you’re right, we’re not listening to each other…no more fruit here, I think

    except I’ll say that it’s
    all about love, man, all about the love…you can’t reason that away, hey hey

    charliemonkeyseven out and gone home…

    PS ever see the U2 video live at slane castle? Bono saying ‘this is our love’–it’s cool. Catch the bonus track of the little girl dancing on stage

    bye and good luck

  • 84. Charlie7  |  August 11, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    q monkey,

    sorry, I thought I was done but one more; people seem to think I don’t understand rational analysis, scientific method, etc. So try this one on, only one striking example out of hundreds of such experiences/evidences I am working from:

    Some people don’t believe in clairvoyance, telepathy, stuff like that. Fair enough—but what if I observe it happening?

    This was in 1989. A young man we had known about three years before called and said he was in town, wanted to visit. We invited him over, then took him with us to visit some of our ‘spiritual’ friends. This guy from Tulsa hung out with all of us for an evening, then camped at our place for a few days.

    While he was still there the lady of the house we visited, Debbie, told my wife that she had gotten some really bad images while around this guy, images of sexual abuse of children. She has a gift for ‘picking up’ things from people, and she wanted to warn us about the guy.

    We asked him what was up, (we had small kids at the time) and he admitted that during his absence from our area (around Fayetteville, AR) he had been in prison in Oklahoma for…raping a minor. And that he still had desires in that direction, didn’t believe it was wrong to ‘love’ children in that way, etc.

    We politely asked him to break camp, put distance between his self and our kids if he felt that way.

    Our ‘clairvoyant’ friend Debbie had no ‘rational’ way of knowing that this guy was a kiddie rapist—nor did we until she warned us and we confronted him. Evidence of ESP? Not unless you’re open to the possibility…

    Now you can doubt my account; you don’t know me. But if this is only one of many instances I have witnessed in which people (including myself, my mom, my kids, etc.) have ‘known’ things that they had no known physical way of knowing, what rational conclusions should I reach? That ‘spiritual’ things are bunk? Or that there might be something weird or mysterious going on here…

    I was once praying with a man and I started talking about grief, as for the loss of a loved one. It was very clear to me that this was an issue that needed to be addressed. He had come in acting all happy and I had no ‘rational’ way of knowing there had been a death, but when I started on that train of thought, he said that yes, they had lost a very near family member and his family was all very upset.

    Even if I sensed grief from his body language, tone of voice, etc., how did I know it was a death and not money trouble, fighting with his wife, relapse of addiction, etc.? Again, you can doubt me—you’re probably crazy if you don’t—but should I doubt the clear evidence of my own eyes and ears? Nah, I don’t think so….

    And this is only one of many instances in which I have intuited or ‘known’ things about people that I had no known ‘rational’ way of knowing.

    Anyway, my belief in god is out of this kind of experiences, often shared with others so that we could compare notes. My wife and I and others have felt the holy Spirit powerfully present, seen the same ‘angel’ or fiercely brilliant presence at the same time in the same place, stuff like that…nothing really convincing … unless you’re open to the possibility…that there’s more out there than you know…

    Seeing is believing—and I’ve seen. Or maybe I’m just another crazy with steady job, kids in college, chickens and a garden…hoo ha.

    one-ward thru the fog

    Charlie7 lighting candles in the murky murk and wishing all a loverly day

  • 85. Brandon  |  August 11, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Nice post Charlie7. If ESP is ever proven true it will just end up on the shelf as something else science explained, that is what pretty much happens to everything once it is figured out. I often think that science often diminishes the value of things once it figures out it’s makings.

  • 86. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 11, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Wow, now I know you’re an irrational nut. You’re description of these ESP experiences are a prime example of non-critical thinking. Nothing you describe precludes the possibility of a non-supernatural explanation. Maybe these really are just examples of gathering information from body language. Who knows what subtle cues you subconsciously picked up to indicate a death vs. family or financial troubles. But the simple fact is that no properly controlled tests of ESP, or any supernatural phenomenon, has produced positive results.

    Seriously, if you or someone you know has clear, demonstrable supernatural abilities, James Randi has a million dollars for you.

  • 87. Brandon  |  August 11, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    “Wow, now I know you’re an irrational nut.”

    Ad Hom?

  • 88. Obi  |  August 11, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Eh, more like slight humour mixed with keen observation.

    And by the way, scientists and rational people will continue to dismiss this woman’s and all other people’s ESP until it can be repeatedly, and on multiple occasions be used to predict something. Humans have a penchant for remembering the one time they were right and the hundred times that they were dead wrong.

  • 89. Brandon  |  August 11, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    “until it can be repeatedly, and on multiple occasions be used to predict something.”

    Isn’t that somewhat of a shame? That something must be locked in a jar and seen at all times before it can be deemed true? So even if this person had a true ESP event that could be a once in a life time ordeal it would be dismissed as something else and nothing more unless she has another and another and until she can make it happen at will so it can be tested, dissected, and reviewed! Trust me I am a skeptic, an agnostic, a non christian, but I am not so quick to dismiss anecdotes – it seems that that has become the way of the metaphysical naturalist world.

  • 90. Brandon  |  August 11, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Oh and I don’t know how calling someone irrational could be consider humorous from their perspective…….

  • 91. Obi  |  August 11, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Brandon —

    Yes, that’s how it is. To be honest, as someone who is pursuing a medical career and is therefore fully invested in the sciences — especially biology and chemistry — I find it somewhat sad that people take such a poor view of science. People often think “Oh, I don’t want science to explain so-and-so because it takes away the feeling and the meaning of it”, and I find that downright wrong.

    For example, people will disregard neuroscientific advancements in exploring the brain and finding the basis of emotions, such as love, because somehow they think it takes away from the “magic” surrounding it and that those evil, evil scientists are trying to break down love and put it into a test tube. To me, it seems silly, because the feeling will continue to be the same feeling — we’re simply learning what it was all along and furthering our understanding. From the “normal” non-scientific populace there seems to be this feeling that science sticks it’s nose into everything, ruining it by sanitizing it with it’s strict procedures, experiments, and the like. Those same people, however, then turn on their cell phones, televisions, MP3 players, cars, et cetera without a further thought.

    Meh.

    With that said, let me focus more on your point of discussion. The reason scientists (as well as mathematicians, especially statisticians) disregard one-off occurrences is because there’s this thing we call “random luck”. If we took every random, one-off event as saying something about how the entire Universe worked and based concepts and worldviews off of that, just imagine where we’d be. Forget that, there isn’t even any need to imagine. Just look back into human history, where people were awed because of what they perceived as miracles and supernatural workings happening all around them. It wasn’t until “dirty” science came in and stuck it’s nose in off-limit places that humanity really started to advance.

    I mean, upon what basis do you even assume that such an occurrence was supernatural and not merely a lucky guess? Like I said before, humans like to remember the one right time and forget the other hundred times. I mean, it’s statistically insignificant. It means nothing. Reminds me somewhat of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction, heh.

    By the way, don’t take any of this personally. The rant in the main body was aimed at no one in particular and everyone in general.

  • 92. Brandon  |  August 11, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Obi, I appreciate your insight and your explanation. Don’t get me wrong, I am a naturalist, but I am the type of naturalist that accepts the possibility that “random luck” (I did not know that random luck is compatible with determinism, is that similar to the uncertainty principle?) can occur and eventually be explained, like even if there was a deist being that influenced the creation of this universe I feel that it’s existence could be explained through some sort of natural process. Of course this logic begs tons of questions and potentially can lead to an infinite regression, but even our concepts today in regards to the big bang and/or big bounce still beg questions and can also lead to an infinite regression. We are still trying to prove the higgs boson and higgs field just so we can say well this is why there is more matter than anti matter.

    Yes, I agree, some get fixated on that one occurrence and ignore the other times when it doesn’t happen, but overall I do not think it is 100% logical to always dismiss that one occurrence and just say oh it is either false or a one time anomaly.

    And yes, I agree about your statement in regards to science, but I think science is in an oppressed state and I do think science attempts to diminish certain things to give us a reality check, but in my opinion, this is becoming too much of a pattern. Reading Susan Blackmore where they constantly refer to us as simply JUST biological machines where we just make the best of our existence (even if there is truth to it) it does diminish the complete value of life in it’s entirety and does somewhat downplay the meaning. Maybe not for all, but it seems like this growing brights movement is seemingly spreading that logic and using science as their defense to diminish the things we value above chemical reactions.

    As far as love is concerned and other things of value, I do not think chemical reactions are the birth of it, I think something triggers the neurons/chemical reactions/dopamine process but I understand from an observation standpoint how it seems like it is solely a chemical reaction and that the neurons firing/chemicals interacting appear as the starting point but too me it is comparable to this, and correct this scenario if I am wrong since I believe you have the credentials to do so…I jerk my leg, neurons fire, a doctor hits that reflex point near the knee, my leg jerks, the same neurons probably don’t fire. But from the observer standpoint if they only get to see my leg, it all looks the same.

    Anyway I would like to learn more about your medical path and the knowledge you have acquired, granted of course I know you are probably really busy so I understand anytime you spend on me is a bonus to me. But if you get a chance please email me at InvisiblePills@aol.com. I wouldn’t mind picking your brain about things that out of respect for everyone else – I shouldn’t overload this blog with my questions that are not related to the posts.

  • 93. silentj  |  August 11, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Brandon,

    I see your point about anecdotes being dismissed. However, those types of stories become viral and lead people to make irrational choices. One “charming’ esp story suddenly allows the Miss Cloes of the world to take advantage of people in mass.

    We have plenty of stories that we can enjoy knowing full well that they are made up. We can willingly suspend disbelief and embrace the magic and adventure. However, when the story is over, we come back to reality.

    These types of irrational stories create for good chat. However, their potential for abuse is to great to let them live like cute little lies.

  • 94. Obi  |  August 11, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Brandon —

    Haha mate, you got me wrong. When I said “pursuing a medical career”, I didn’t mean that I was doing my residency, or even in medical school. I’m merely a high school senior who takes quite a bit of an interest in science and who occasionally works in a university lab.

    But aye, I see where you’re coming from. Some of the implications of modern scientific study can seem “harsh” (for lack of a better word), such as the loss of the libertarian free will as well as the soul. But if that’s the way it was all along, in my opinion it’s better to know; but on the other hand ignorance can seem like bliss. In my case, I just swallowed it and went on. “We’re ‘only’ biological machines? Cool.” I still have all my hopes, dreams, aspirations, feelings, et cetera, I simply know where they come from. That doesn’t make “me” any less “me”, you know?

    As for something like love, the scenario would seem to go like this: you see someone you love, meaning the photons reflected off of their face and body enter your eye and are projected onto your retina. Then, an electrical signal runs up your optical nerve and into your visual cortex. Your amygdala identifies the memories and feelings that you have tied to the image of that person’s face, and some area (or gland) in your brain releases neurotransmitters that result in a cascade of emotion — be it love or hate; anger or happiness. Furthermore, your motor cortex could be triggered to send a signal to your the muscles in your legs to start contracting and relaxing, enabling you to walk towards your friend/lover. And then a hug, and some words, et cetera.

    I can see where it might be “dehumanizing” at first, but like I figured that when one realizes that realizing all of this changes nothing about your everyday experience other than giving you new knowledge, it doesn’t change anything, in my opinion.

    *shrug*

    As for ignoring (supposed) precogntitive events, I remain skeptical. When someone is found who is able to walk around and tell someone’s life story simply by looking at them, I’ll believe. Until then…well, you know.

    As for “begging questions”, I think it’s simply in the nature of human beings to ask questions, and I don’t think ever question can be answered, or even needs an answer. I frequently run into theists who accost me for not believing by saying that “Well, how do you answer so-and-so question then?”, with the questions usually being something along the lines of “Why are we here?” or “What’s the meaning of the Universe?”. A normal theist will often tell me that (1) We’re here because God(s) put(s) us here for a “purpose”, and that (2) The meaning of the Universe is to appease God(s), create beings to worship God(s), lift God(s) out of a state of boredom, et cetera; this usually ends up with them thinking that they have “all the answers”.

    However, when I ask something like “Why does God even exist?” or “Why did God feel bored/lonely and need to create us?”, I’m met with a warning of “Don’t ask such questions!” which shows that the cycle of human questioning is endless — even with “all the answers”, we simply ask where the answers came from, how we know they are the answers, why we ask why, et cetera. You know?

    Hmm, long post but worth it in my opinion.

  • 95. john t.  |  August 11, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Obi

    Interesting description of what love is. The thing is, what you describe is just natures way of making sure you f… so the species will continue. Love is so much more than chemical reactions in your body.

  • 96. john t.  |  August 11, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    charlie7

    #84

    I live with someone who does it on a semi regular basis. For the life of me I have no idea how they do it, but lo and behold they still do it.

  • 97. Obi  |  August 11, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    John T. —

    No. It. Is. Not.

    Love is completely electrochemical reactions in your body. If you have any evidence that suggests otherwise, the Journal of Neuroscience and Nature, among others, would love to hear it.

    http://www.jneurosci.org/

    http://www.nature.com/neuro/index.html

    Publish away.

  • 98. john t.  |  August 12, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Obi

    Ok, I will go check out your bibles.

  • 99. qmonkey  |  August 12, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Charlie…

    >>>PS ever see the U2 video live at slane castle? Bono saying ‘this is our love’–it’s cool. Catch the bonus track of the little girl dancing on stage

    I was at that concert… I’m Irish. (if you mean “U2 come home”) Paid a fortune for the tickets.

    about everything else… seriously, ‘LOVE’ as evidence that Jesus rose from the dead… come on!

    you’ve built your house on the sandy land, you’ve built it too near the shore, well it might look kinda nice but you’ll have to build it twice, yes you’ll have to build you house once more.

  • 100. Brandon  |  August 12, 2008 at 8:49 am

    SilentJ – I agree with your assessment, stories like this can lead to irrational choices and lead to “fake stories” but it still does not negate the fact that one story can serve as truth or have value other than irrationality. Gun’s don’t kill people, people misusing Guns kill people is the line of logic I follow when it comes to these anecdotes.

    Obi – Thank you for that description of love, if love is triggered by the brain’s interpretation of the light signals received from it’s recepters how does it work for blind people? This is not a cynical question, I am just curious on the explanation. Sound into the auditory canals trigger neural firings that trigger auditory memories that release the chemicals and love “flows” throw the body? So is it impossible to feel love if there are no memories to recall? I don’t know, I think it goes deeper than that, don’t get me wrong I am not trying to advocate a soul (even though I accept the possiblity) but I think it is deeper than neurons firing and chemicals released. Even the blank slate theory is being challenged, there was an article on livescience.com that showed evidence of some sort of “pre-programming” where the babies possessed some sort of understanding of certain things before they had a chance to either be taught or experience these type of things, as if they already “knew” the right thing to do. Granted you can then say photons – electrical impulse – chemicals. But that would not be sufficient to say that is all there was to their choice, obviously it would appear there is something deeper in our DNA and that it manifests itself through these chemical reactions. If you are interested, I’ll try to find the article that discusses the innate aspect that may suggest the blank slate theory is not as accurate as originally thought.

  • 101. qmonkey  |  August 12, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Brandon,

    Surely even if it is at the very least ‘reasonable’ to look at the evidence to conclude that miraculous events probably didn’t happen… then I think for me, and for you – THAT should be enough to be very suspicious of Christianity .
    What kind of loving god would let this be the case – trickery of the worst kind.

    If you however decide to lower your standards of logic and critical analysis to accommodate, then there is no good reason why you should not lower it further and accept other miracle/god/alien/clairvoyant claims.

    I might be wrong… but so might you, and we must accept that. But if you ‘want’ to believe something enough, we humans have a great capacity for post rationalizing our decisions. (you and me both of course)… its a mater of deciding on the best decision making tools.

    “Be not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead”
    Thomas Jefferson

  • 102. john t.  |  August 12, 2008 at 9:29 am

    qmonkey

    “Truth is one the sages speak of it by many names”

    Upanishads

  • 103. Brandon  |  August 12, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Qmonkey – Thank you for your response. I am curious on how Christianity came to play in the topic of conversation….I am not a Christian so I wouldn’t argue against the point you made. I assume you are correlating it with “if you can accept an ESP claim then why can’t you accept miracles/gods/aliens”

    Logic should not be held on a pedestal under all circumstances. Human logic is not always accurate, human logic is always based on the data we have and the data that preceded it and then “logical conclusions” are made. But some of these logical conclusions themselves are not testable, they just become axiomatic.

    When I say that anecdotes shouldn’t be dismissed, I am saying just that, if it appears credible, if it appears truthful, at least take a look at it. I don’t think one has to lower their rationale just to review it and then either accept it or dismiss it. I accept the concept of Panpsychism, where consciousness is a fundamental principle of matter itself. This is not proven, but logically David Chalmers makes some interesting points about this. Logically it is plausible without evidence, and we may never get evidence for it, but it doesn’t mean I lowered my logical standards to consider this interesting idea that is unproven and lacks current evidence. That is all I am saying, we are not infallaible we can not assume that our senses dictate reality. Our senses can not engage every aspect of this world, subatomic particles evade our senses all the time but yet interact with us without our realizations. If science did not have the tools to discover these things, with the current materialistic reasoning we would just say it is non existant. All I am saying is there are certain logical possibilities that should be considered before dismissed, and not just dismissed without consideration. But I get your point QM, and it is a valid one.

  • 104. qmonkey  |  August 12, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Brandon,

    sorry… i made an assumption about your religion… easy to do.

    I agree that logic shouldn’t be put on a pedestal. well, i agree in principle. but is it not a good working assumption.. that impossible stuff doesn’t happen … unless proved otherwise.

    If i say, i can fly. you assume i can’t till i prove it to you. But yes, you don’t completely rule it out… you just asume i can’t and get on with your life, not making a judgment on my motives. (until i prove it)

  • 105. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Brandon —

    Of course babies have instincts that are “pre-programmed” into them — genetics. Babies are born with the instinct to cry, suckle (to feed), attach themselves to a caretaker, and a host of other things that increase their chances of survival. Anyone still holding on to a “blank slate theory” (John Locke’s tabula rasa, you mean?) is quite out of the loop…

    As for love in blind people, my example was giving a bare-bones “run” through the nervous system, from an organ of sensory perception (the eye) to the brain. In a blind person, hearing a love one’s voice would trigger a similar “run”, except through the ear.

    And yes, if one has no memories then one cannot have loved ones, but one can still love, because the chemicals that give the feeling/emotion of love are still there. For example , people with a combination of retrograde and anterograde amnesia might be able feel love for someone for a few moments (5-15 minutes) before their memories are lost, but they can most definitely still feel love. To disable the emotion, you’d have to somehow damage the parts of the brain that produce the neurotransmitters that trigger it.

    Oh, and love doesn’t “flow” through the body, the neurotransmitters stay in the brain, but your brain can also trigger “tinglies” down your spine, sweating, et cetera in combination with your sensations of love. To get a fully fleshed out explanation, I’d recommend asking a cognitive neuroscientist. I’m just laying down the bare essentials.
    ;)

    Oh, and another point on love and memory. Remember how I spoke about the amygdala recognizing the face as one that you had an emotional attachment to? Yep, it’s quite an important part of the limbic system, which is the “emotional control center” in the brain.

    Check it out:

    http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/limbicsystem.html

    http://www.healing-arts.org/n-r-limbic.htm

  • 106. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 12, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Ooh, speaking of recognizing loved ones, people should look up Capgras Syndrome sometime. A fascinating disorder where you think people or objects in your life are being replaced by exact duplicates. One running theory is that the person is still able to recognize people and objects, but a problem in their brain prevents the sense of familiarity of them. You’ll recognize your spouse’s face, but seeing the face doesn’t trigger the normal emotions, and so you assume it’s a duplicate. Fascinating stuff.

    Brandon-

    “Wow, now I know you’re an irrational nut.”

    Ad Hom?

    Not an ad hom, just calling it like I see it. Charlie7 was demonstrating uncritical thinking at its absolute worst.

    Sure, maybe those events really were ESP. To claim with certainty that they are, ignoring other explanations that frankly make more sense given the total lack of true scientific evidence for ESP is foolish. Anecdotes are not evidence, period. They can be a great starting point, but you can’t rely on them. There are plenty of anecdotes for ESP, so we check it out. And every time, it is disproved.

    Maybe the rare accurate guess really is ESP, but if it works exactly as well as random guessing, what’s the point? If my ESP works exactly the same as random guessing, for all practical purposes I don’t have ESP.

  • 107. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Capgras delusion is caused by damage to the limbic system, especially the amygdala.

    http://www.csua.berkeley.edu/~reeser/cssa_rama.html
    :D

  • 108. Brandon  |  August 12, 2008 at 11:45 am

    QM & SB – I think we are in agreement (even though maybe different adjectives could have been used to describe Charlie out of respect?)

    Obi – I found the information you provied very interesting and perused other articles on this matter and they seem to all be in agreement. The only thing that stood out from one of the articles it mentioned we had an ability to “manipulate” that chemistry similar to the veto power in the Libet experiment. However the article failed to elaborate on it which was disappointed. I also notice that consciousness in all these articles I found wasn’t actively discussed (however probably because it is blantantly obvious consciousness is involved?).

    Also the “flow” part was meant to mean essentially the same way to described it, it wasn’t meant to infer anything beyond the neural network.

    In terms of the pre-programming, what the article entailed goes beyond the natural instincts we posses, unless you consider morality a natural instinct, but I think that is what the livescience article was trying to say, the innate understand of what is right/wrong before we are actually taught it. However it is not for all aspects of moralty just certain ones.

    I am still intrigued by the issues of memory and love and love and it’s chemical nature. I did get the impression that there still are some aspects of love that remain a mystery.

    The irony, diminishing love to chemical reactions has somewhat made depressed, chemically speaking of course, lol

  • 109. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Brandon —

    Cool, glad you found some other articles on the subjects. If you want, I can source what I say from now on but my memory usually serves me rather well since I’m still young.

    As for morality, pre-programming and natural instincts, you say that scientists have found something innate that goes “beyond” our possessed natural instincts — but how is that possible? If it is an innate potential for morality, then that means that it is a natural instinct, not something transcendent or “beyond”, you know?

    More specifically though, I do think we have morality coded into us, especially something like the ethic of reciprocity (AKA the golden rule), which is ubiquitous in human culture in all time periods and locations throughout recorded history. It’s just “common sense”, and it seems to me that it’s so ubiquitous because it has been biologically programmed into us through millenia of evolution as social animals.

    With respect to consciousness, perhaps the articles didn’t speak on it because it’s a phenomenon that we don’t fully understand yet. We understand that it’s rooted in the physical brain, but exactly where it’s rooted (I think it might be distributed and not say, a “consciousness cortex”) how it works and why it evolved are still unknown, as far as I know.

  • 110. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    That winking smiley wasn’t intentional, by the way.

    I might also add to that last paragraph that because we don’t know, it’s a gap that people are quick to fill with supernatural explanations, which makes me…
    :(

  • 111. Brandon  |  August 12, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    So is it safe to say that the feeling of Love is the chemical process/chemical end result of the brains interpretation of stimulus and of recollected memories?

    I think it is too early to say that consciousness is solely rooted in the brain. There are just too many theories about it. There is one theory that portrays conscioussness as an electromagnetic field within the cranium, one that proposes all matter within the body possesses a degree of consciousness. One that solely states it resides in the neo cortex and even one that proposes consciousness is best understood on a quantum level. There are just too many theories out there, but I do think a lot would tend to say it is rooted in the physical. I do agree that the gap is where the supernatural is placed, but I think if the soul does exist, it is something that is rooted in naturalism and perhaps on a quantum entanglement level similar to what Hameroff proposes.

    I’ll try to to find the article too it, I Only found the one before it

    http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/070815_gm_preferences.html

    But I have not found the article that gets indepth regarding innate morality.

    Just for the record you are an Atheist Materialist, correct?

  • 112. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 12, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Obi-

    Exactly what I meant, but tried to put in “layman’s terms” for people who have no idea what the limbic system is.faces, but when shown a face that should be familiar, the

    Interestingly, there’s an almost perfect inverse to Capgras Syndrome. In this case, a person is unable to consciously recognize person still experiences the emotions associated with it. The limbic system is intact, but whatever part of the brain is involved in recognizing faces suffers some sort of disconnect. In fact, as I understand it, this syndrome is what led to the currently leading theory on Capgras. Realizing that some people do not recognize faces but experience emotions when shown them, it was theorized that Capgras was the inverse, where people recognized faces but did not experience the associated emotions (due, as you pointed out, to damage in the limbic system). Studies so far have tended to validate this theory.

    Anyway, Capgras Syndrome is just one of many fascinating aspects of the brain that has lead me to reject the idea of a soul.

    Brandon-

    QM & SB – I think we are in agreement (even though maybe different adjectives could have been used to describe Charlie out of respect?)

    I’ll admit that I perhaps got a little more… caustic than was warranted. Any respect is reserved for the rest of the people who read this thread, however, as I have little respect for someone who is willing to gleefully apply uncritical thinking to their life and is unwilling to recognize this when it is pointed out to them.

  • 113. Brandon  |  August 12, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Snugg – Point taken, lol

    I haven’t rejected the idea of the soul, I always perceived the soul as while confined in the body, only able to manifest itself through the machine. If you damage the body it distorts the manifestation while at home in the body. Obviouslly it borders “irrational” conjecture but I have a bunch of analogies and explanations on this logic as a possiblity. I even think there is a possiblity that consciousness is a coherent energy field which I borrow from one theory that proposes consciousness is an electromagnetic field. Obviously these random musings I possess are probably not fruitful for this blog post or the current direction of our conversation.

    From what I gathered in reading VS Ram’s article is you recognize the face but get no emotional response from that recognition and thus dismiss it as a false copy. Is that correct?

  • 114. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Snuggly —

    Aye, I pointed it out as a tie-in to my post because it fit so well.

  • 115. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Brandon —

    Yes.

  • 116. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Huh, I must’ve accidentally dragged part of my sentence from the second paragraph up to the beginning. Re-posting so it’s coherent:

    Exactly what I meant, but tried to put in “layman’s terms” for people who have no idea what the limbic system is.

    Interestingly, there’s an almost perfect inverse to Capgras Syndrome. In this case, a person is unable to consciously recognize faces, but when shown a face that should be familiar, the person still experiences the emotions associated with it. The limbic system is intact, but whatever part of the brain is involved in recognizing faces suffers some sort of disconnect. In fact, as I understand it, this syndrome is what led to the currently leading theory on Capgras. Realizing that some people do not recognize faces but experience emotions when shown them, it was theorized that Capgras was the inverse, where people recognized faces but did not experience the associated emotions (due, as you pointed out, to damage in the limbic system). Studies so far have tended to validate this theory.

    Anyway, Capgras Syndrome is just one of many fascinating aspects of the brain that has lead me to reject the idea of a soul.

    Much better (if anyone with the ability to modify posts in the thread wants to fix my previous post and delete this re-posting, feel free).

    Brandon-

    Your summary of the article is apt. That’s just the most plausible explanation, though; I don’t think it’s been proven one way or the other, but it makes the most sense.

    Another interesting point is that for some it can apparently also apply to other objects, as well, not just faces. It still seems the root of the problem is in the inability to emotionally connect with the thing you are recognizing, though.

    As for the soul, I don’t deny that a soul is possible. But given all the evidence I have seen, it doesn’t seem likely. Much like God, I simply do not see enough evidence to believe that a soul exists.

    I haven’t rejected the idea of the soul, I always perceived the soul as while confined in the body, only able to manifest itself through the machine. If you damage the body it distorts the manifestation while at home in the body.

    Not a ridiculous idea, but at this point is it any different than the idea that a soul doesn’t exist at all? Whether we have a soul or not, damage to the machine of your brain has the same affect, and for all practical purposes the two concepts are the same. The only point where it becomes an issue is after death, and given the lack of evidence that a person’s soul affects the world after it has died, it’s not much of an issue here either.

  • 117. Oleander  |  August 12, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    SCIENTIFIC LOVE SONG words and music by Obi (see post above)

    you see someone you love, yeah yeah,meaning the photons reflected off of their face and body enter your eye and are projected onto your retina, ooh, yeah.

    You get my brainwaves moving Baby,
    your photons just did me in. Oh yeah!!

    Then, an electrical signal runs up your optical nerve and into your visual cortex, oh baby baby. Your amygdala identifies the memories and feelings that you have tied to the image of that person’s face, yeah yeah,and some area (or gland) in your brain releases neurotransmitters that result in a cascade of emotion OH, OH, OH Yeah!! — be it love or hate; anger or happiness–ooh baby baby.

    Neurotransmitting love, oh yeah!!
    my amygdala cries for you.
    Yeah, baby, baby

    Furthermore, your motor cortex could be triggered to send a signal to your the muscles in your legs to start contracting and relaxing, enabling you to walk towards your friend/lover. And then a hug, and some words, et cetera.

    My legs they are a jumpin’ yeah, yeah
    I’m walkin’ close to you.

  • 118. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 12, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Nice, Oldeander, though I think I’ll stick with the classic, “She Blinded Me with Science.”

  • 119. Oleander  |  August 12, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Snuggly—
    :)

    Obi–

    Sorry—couldn’t resist. When I saw your scientific explanation of how the feelings of love work, I thought it would be funny to put the words in a song. Kind of a hip-hop soul mixture—could have a refrain like:

    You’re my lab rat baby
    An experiment of love

    Could actually be pretty good. :)

  • 120. silentj  |  August 12, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    I think what you all are describing is “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic.”

    RIP Isaac

  • 121. Brandon  |  August 12, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    SilentJ – Yes, this past weekend we got hit hard, we lost a comedy legend and a music legend all in one.

    Ole – LoL, Nice song!!! If you can make a CD and spray it with some pheromones that would be nice scientific package!

    Snugg – Well said, and I agree. I agree that whether the soul exists or not that we should not be focusing on that in our current state. We should focus on the matters we understand and not take our minds away from the present towards a concept we know nothing about. Even th Jews don’t get into detail in discussing the afterlife, everything I converse with my Jewish friends they just say, we don’t know what it is like, we just assume it is going to be good.

    Thank you for thinking my idea is plausible, I would elaborate further on the subject about how I do think it can influence the machine but is just limited by it, but again, I have to side with you on this, what is the point of talking bout whether we have one or not when we have real life to live.

    I would say I am happy I found this blog, it was a bit of an accident too, I was on the “Atheism is dead” blog that I found after reading LeoPardus’s debate with M, and then made my way towards this blog.

    One last thing about love. I did some reflecting, and the reality is, nothing has really changed in what love is. Love has always been an expression of some sort of response recognition in the brain, it is just now it is better explained that love as a feeling is essentially a chemical reaction that in turn is a chemical response to a determination made by the brain based off stimulus/memories. So I guess I was wrong for even getting depressed in the first place, sometimes new concepts are hard to digest when not fully understood.

  • 122. Brandon  |  August 12, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Sorry about the spelling errors, I wish there was some sort of edit feature to make corrections…..oh well….

  • 123. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:05 am

    So I guess I was wrong for even getting depressed in the first place, sometimes new concepts are hard to digest when not fully understood.

    Ah, very well put. It’s definitely interesting dealing with natural explanations for things that tend to have more mystical ones. But, much like I still have morality after giving up my faith, I feel that knowing and understanding the inner workings behind our consciousness does not diminish the significance of it. Just because I know that love can be broken down to neurons and chemicals in my brain doesn’t mean that love is in some way diminished from what it was if it arose from something metaphysical.

    The fact is, we are the only creatures on Earth that can even think about all this stuff (as far as we know), which is in itself absolutely amazing when you think about just how complex our brains and minds have to be to do this.

  • 124. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I agree with you Snugg. After I thought it out I realized that the recognition of love still stems from us, our brains/soul or whatever still recognizes love and the recognition preceeds the chemical release. So even though I understand the workings, it still appears to be the same all along. I think I just focused too much on the chemical part of it without truly putting it together.

    I do want to learn more about that disorder you mention so I will probably look into that heavily. Thanks for the info!

  • 125. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I link to Damn Interesting a lot, but they have an excellent article on Capgras Syndrome called An Imposter in the Family.

    If you check their section on Gray Matter you’ll find many fascinating articles regarding the brain.

  • 126. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks for the link. I will peruse that article on Gray Matter. I definitely want to know more about Gray/White matter and the differences in functions among gender.

  • 127. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    What I found interesting about that Decapitation article is that even though they admit it is not conclusive they still depend heavily on anecdotal observational evidence, so scientifically speaking that should give some credence to eye witness accounts about certain things that are often dismissed (obviously not all though)…..

  • 128. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    The thing with decapitation is that there is no way to ethically do scientific tests to determine how long it takes you to die afterward. We have to rely on anecdotes because it’s all we have access to.

    You’ll note that even in the decapitation article, they can’t arrive at any real conclusions, because all they have are anecdotes. For all the anecdotes, we effectively know nothing; maybe you die the instant your head is severed, and all the anecdotes that suggest otherwise are just coincidences and reflexes. In the end, all we can really do is speculate.

    Maybe someday we’ll be able to reattach a severed head and bring the person back to life with no ill effects. At this point I would love to see an actual scientific study on how long one remains lucid after decapitation. As it stands, there’s just no way to do it.

    Anecdotes are a great place to start. They are the absolute worst place you can finish. If you have some interesting anecdotes that point to something, make it your hypothesis and actually engage in study and experiments to test it and see if the anecdotes were pointing to something real or imagined. If you try to use anecdotes as your only evidence for something, then you really have evidence for nothing.

  • 129. ubi dubium  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Brandon:

    What I found interesting about that Decapitation article is that even though they admit it is not conclusive they still depend heavily on anecdotal observational evidence, so scientifically speaking that should give some credence to eye witness accounts about certain things that are often dismissed (obviously not all though)…..

    Anecdotal evidence can certainly point us to interesting areas for proper study. But in the area of decapitation it would not be possible in this day and age to do a controlled study on humans, since we no longer use the guillotine for executions, so interesting anecdotes are all we have. It’s possible that there is something going on here, but it’s also possible that we have people seeing what they want to see, or people making up stories. No way to tell.

  • 130. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    “Anecdotes are a great place to start. They are the absolute worst place you can finish.”

    “It’s possible that there is something going on here, but it’s also possible that we have people seeing what they want to see, or people making up stories”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    That is why I respect the article, they are still left with a maybe, and readily admit so, and at the end they know they may never get to prove it empirically but respect the anecdotal enough to consider it and not dismiss even though a proper study is not feasible. I just think that that respect should be extended to other forms of anecdotal, but instead, these other forms are just dismissed without review.

  • 131. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Well, with regards to ESP, I reject anecdotes for it out of hand because it’s been thoroughly tested. There are tons of anecdotes pointing to ESP, but numerous studies that say ESP does not exist.

    I’ll take properly controlled scientific studies over anecdotes any day.

    Basically, anecdotes are enough to make you say, “hm, that’s interesting,” but not enough to make any concrete claims.

    Go back and read Charlie7’s anecdotes on ESP. He immediately jumps to the conclusion of something supernatural at work, and dismisses that it might just be the human capacity to read body language or any other number of plausible natural explanations. I don’t dismiss his anecdotes; I believe they really happened more-or-less as he relates them to us. I reject his conclusion, and I abhor the kind of thinking he used to arrive at it.

  • 132. Oleander  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    I fellow named Ralph Billingley, back in 1985, while on television, placed his index fingers on the temple on both sides of his head, and then closed his eyes. He said “I predict in the future that they will scientifically prove that ESP does not exist”.

    He was absolutely correct.

  • 133. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I have no issue with you rejecting his conclusion, I do not think conclusions should be made until it is further reviewed, but not all anecdotals should be dismissed. I think they should at least be evaluated first, there are no grounds to connect ESP to supernatural, so I think that what he came up with was a poor conclusion to make. But I do not think concepts of ESP or remote viewing are not 100% proven to not exist. I am sure if these things do exist that they exist on a quantum level similar to entanglement and perhaps are not just understood yet. I just think that there are so many frauds presenting themselves to have these abilities that we tend to dismiss all of them as one due to the many frauds that are mainstream. I have a friend and her sister who saw a ghost, they both saw the same ghost, we could say hallucination, supernatural, or another explanation. She and her sister who are both considered geniuses (according to IQ testing, however I personally don’t buy into IQ tests as an accurate measuring tool) accept it as a vision of a ghost of a deceased person, before this, from what she tells me, she didn’t believe in Ghosts. I think their conclusions are a bit premature and based off conditioning from their previous understandings(even though they previously lacked belief), but I truly think they saw something. Do I think it is supernatural? No (but I can’t rule it out with 100% certainty), I just think maybe there was an electromagnetic interference or an overlapping of dimensions, I try to be as reasonable as possible instead of just telling her that her and her sister had a hallucination or that she had a hallucination and her sister looks up to her so she is just pretending she saw the same thing. I mean, really, anything can be said. So it all depends on how skeptical one is and how much faith one is willing to put in anecdotal evidence or the people sharing their stories. I for one like to personally review it first before jumping the gun and always consider the source.

  • 134. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    You all probably think I’m crazy too, lol

  • 135. john t.  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    oleander

    #134…….When did they prove that?

  • 136. john t.  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Brandon

    I think you are bang on. I have had more than my share of experiences that science cant explain (yet). I presume its “Natural” and it was pretty “Super” to me. ;)

  • 137. Oleander  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    John T.

    Actually, the post was meant as a joke. The guy basically used ESP to predict that one day they would sceintifically prove that ESP didn’t exist at all.

  • 138. john t.  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Oops………Guess Im not psychic lol…..or very quick today ;)

  • 139. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    John T – “I think you are bang on”

    Does that mean you agree with me or that you think I was dropped as a baby? LoL

  • 140. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Brandon, I’m sure they saw something, but again, all this is good for is the ability to say, “that’s interesting.” Maybe they saw a ghost, maybe they saw some bizarre natural phenomenon that they interpreted as a ghost, maybe both had an identical hallucination. Maybe they didn’t see anything, and think this is a hilarious joke to play on everyone they know that they’ll take to their graves. Maybe they both saw something different, and in talking to each other they ended up subconsciously altering their memories so they lined up with each other (human memories are certainly inaccurate and malleable enough for something like this). I would be very interested in how their stories would have differed if they hadn’t had a chance to talk to each other about the event.

    Without the ability to test it, the anecdote is worthless for any practical purpose.

  • 141. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I agree with the overall assessment other than the part where you say it is worthless, unless you are relating worthlessness to the correlation that nothing truly conclusive can be gained out of it as a collective whole. Then I would agree, the anecdote is worthless to everyone but them because nothing definitive can be determined by us based off their story.

  • 142. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I would think that their stories would not differ as much other than minor intepretative details or any influenctial interpretative impairements (color blindness). Other than that, if they are at the same location seeing the same vision, I would presume the major points would still be the same.

  • 143. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    seeing the same vision

    Exactly my point though, maybe they didn’t see the same thing, but they have corrupted each others’ memories in discussing what they saw so that they now think they saw the same thing.

    But like I said, it’s ultimately worthless for any practical purpose. I would love to investigate their experience further to find out what really happened, but it doesn’t seem like this is the sort of thing we can build a testable hypothesis around, so I’m left going “huh, interesting,” rejecting the idea of ghosts since most evidence points away from that possibility in spite of their anecdote, and then moving on with my life.

  • 144. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    You are a very skeptical person it seems.

    I think evidence disproving ghosts and a lack of evidence for Ghost are two different things. I don’t see the anomalies disproved at all, but can concede there is not enough convincing anecdotal evidence to deem it as a fact, and for the time being it does appear that this can not be fully tested or demonstrated.

    As I stated above, I highly doubt that their memories corrupted one another’s in regards to the major details, if anything it may influence the minor details since they both claim to have seen it at the same time it is comparable to see Obi 1’s (star wars) holographic image briefly and then it fades away, I think we would both agree that we saw it, and our general outline of what we saw would agree on a macro level but differ on a micro level (was he smiling was he not).

    But I can agree that it would be worthless for you and I to try to make conclusions on her experience since we can not test it or truly evaluate it in any other way besides hearing it. But hearing enough stories eventually has to let someone think something is up.

    I am no slave to science, science has been wrong before and science is limited to its own methods of observation. I do not think science has the whole story, I think there are things beyond th scope of science at this time. Do not misunderstand this statement though, I strongly believe as technology gets better more things will unravel and science will fill in the blanks. All I am advocating is there is a perfectly “natural” reality that is beyond our grasps at this time and perhaps this anecdotes can provide us with insights or a direction, and hopefully not dead ends.

  • 145. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Yeah, I am a very skeptical person; it drives my mom nuts, as she tends to believe just about anything she hears :P

    I had a big response typed up, but it’s clear you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree on how to deal with all this. It’s not like our different approaches to the world and life are going to have some profound impact on each other.

  • 146. Oleander  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Yeah, I am a very skeptical person; it drives my mom nuts, as she tends to believe just about anything she hears

    My Mom is the same way. She believes any skeptic she hears. It really makes me skeptical about her atheism.

  • 147. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    I see SB is dropping out of the discussing, and I honestly haven’t been following this, but I just wanted to comment on two things, which are actually the same thing restated:

    “But I do not think concepts of ESP or remote viewing are not 100% proven to not exist”

    “I think evidence disproving ghosts and a lack of evidence for Ghost are two different things.”

    As the saying goes, it is impossible to prove a negative. Science will never be able to prove 100% that ESP doesn’t work, because that’s just not how science works. It can prove that ESP is highly unlikely, and we’re left to either make a leap of faith, wait for further evidence, or decide that “unlikely” is just as good as “never.”
    Likewise there will never be evidence disproving ghosts (you can’t disprove something as plastic and immaterial as a soul), there will only every be a lack of evidence for ghosts.

    What you and I have to do is take that great lack of evidence into account and make a decision. I attempt to always keep myself grounded in the world of empirical evidence, so for me, a great lack of evidence for ghosts equates to there being no ghosts, just as a great lack of evidence for the a celestial teapot orbiting the sun equates to there not being any such teapot.

  • 148. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    I don’t think our disagreements are that wide. I think we both put a lot of weight on science because it’s methods are not deceiving. I just do not think we can honestly say we have the tools/sense engage every aspect of reality, or else the T.O.E. would have been put together nicely in a gift box a long time ago. Heck even Sam Harris is not convinced that consciousness is reducible to matter. All I am saying is there is always the possibility that there are variables not yet considered, that is why as time progressed and new variables are discovered, new theories are formed.

    If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you? I’m guessing between 18-24? (Not meant as an insult)

  • 149. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Dover

    Ahhh the teapot analogy, IPU, Santa, Faeries, it was only a matter of time before that came into the equation. I don’t put that on the same boat. I don’t hear a large amount of anecdotes about celestial teapots where each sane and potentially rational individual is convinced that this exists. So I don’t equate them the same way you do.

    You are right, science at best can prove certain things to be unlikely when it comes to things that have little evidence. I remember when the big crunch was a highly supported theory on the infinite cycle of the big bang, and now as time progressed they realize this variable called Dark Matter makes the big crunch unlikely (even though there still are supporters of the big crunch). New variables, new theories, which shows that even though reality always is, our ability to perceive it with our senses, our methods, and tools, are still a work in progress. Heck even when we see objects light years away we are essentially looking into the past, so I do not think we should presume that this reality we are empirically trying to learn about can only be defined empirically. So I do think honest, truthful anecdotes are very valuable. The problem becomes it is often hard to weed out the truthful ones from the delusional ones and from the hallucinations. I may put a lot of weight on science, but not all of it, the human experience is also valuable to me in aiding me on this journey. But trust me, I am not saying either of you are wrong, and I completely respect both of your coherent opinions, but like snugg says, none of us are truly going to change our mind on this matter.

  • 150. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Ole – LoL, We can always depend on you for comic relief!!!

  • 151. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Anyway, I just found this today, it is pretty interesting. It is related to Quantum Entanglement, it doesn’t appear to be anything new even though it is dated today.

    http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/080813-spooky-limit.html

  • 152. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Just one more question before I’ll let this go to bed,

    “I do not think we should presume that this reality we are empirically trying to learn about can only be defined empirically.”

    This makes zero sense to me. “Empirically” means based on observation, based on what what observe with our senses. How can we learn anything about the world outside of our senses? How do you define something unempirically? Even those who claim to see ghosts use their eyes or sense of touch. If ghosts are actually something that exist, and if there is to be any actual evidence (non-anecdotal) in their favor, then they are empirical and will join the ranks of other empirical phenomena. If they are not empirical, then we shouldn’t be able to see them or experience them at all–ever.

  • 153. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    My fault

    Meaning we should not presume that reality could only be defined through empirical data (Experiments/testable observations). Seemingly tons of Anecdotes, at this time, appear to evade the scope of testing where empirical data can be produced.

  • 154. ubi dubium  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Brandon

    But I do not think concepts of ESP or remote viewing are not 100% proven to not exist.

    Right – you cannot 100% prove that something does not exist. But you can do experiments that show that it is unlikely to be true. The more studies you do without positive results, the closer you can come to certainty. You can never get there, but you can get very close.

    Since 1998, the James Randi Educational Foundation has had a standing challenge – a $1,000,000 reward to anybody who can conclusively prove, under mutually agreed-upon controlled conditions, the existence of paranormal abilities. There have been hundreds of applications. So far, nobody has been able to perform well enough to get through the preliminary evaluation round, let alone go for the million. And this has been in trials that the applicants agreed in advance were fair.

    Every actual controlled study of ESP I have ever seen has produced results no higher than what we would expect through random chance. This leads me to conclude that anecdotes of ESP are much more likely to be false positives – we remember the one time a hunch was right much more than we remember the thousands of hunches that were wrong.

  • 155. john t.  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Ubi

    Seems to me that unless someone can recreate an experience(ESP) consistently, you wont believe it. What percentage would be good enough for you to say that its a possibility?

  • 156. john t.  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Ubi

    Tiger Woods only wins about 27% of the time, would you not consider him a winner?

  • 157. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    That’s true Ubi,

    some controlled experiments have failed, and there have been some alleged experiments that seem to produce results higher than a chance level. But I am not specifically talking about ESP and I am not specifically trying to advocate ESP or remote viewing, what I am saying is that consistent anecdotes do lend credence that something is at least occurring, I think the truthful ones get caught up with the lies and it all gets diluted and put in one bucket. I personally do think psychics are more than likely fraud. I do not see these things as things that can be controlled, I see them as occurrences, like the equivalent of my friend’s anecdote, I do not think these things can be summoned at will at this time (assuming that they exist of course), I think what happens is as someone stated above, someone hears an anecdote, sees the attention it gets, and builds toward that by perfecting the trickery. But I do think anomalous occurrences do occur, and when these things occur it is hard to test these things empirically with the technology we have. I mean there are a ton of explanations for everything, like Near Death Experiences, there are a ton of explanations, but none complete enough to discredit it as a whole, the only one that seemingly has hope is the rem intrusion theory, but even that hit the mark on a 40% scale. I just think that we as a society should be equally careful in what we let in and what we completely disregard, that’s all.

  • 158. john t.  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Brandon

    Sometimes we get lost in words. Psychic being one of them. I know someone personally who gets, lets say, so called pictures in her mind. It is not always, but when she does it is extremely accurate. How it happens, who knows. Can we chart it or quantify it, no way. All I know is when it happens its as real as my hand.

  • 159. ubi dubium  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    johnt

    Seems to me that unless someone can recreate an experience(ESP) consistently, you wont believe it. What percentage would be good enough for you to say that its a possibility?

    Well, for me to see it as a real possibility, I would want to see something that shows that someone claiming ESP would be able to have a result several times better than what we would expect from random chance. For instance, if we set up a trial where there was only a 1% chance of being correct by chance, but a psychic was able to get the correct answer 10% of the time, and do it consistently, I’d consider that as a real possibility. They don’t have to have a perfect skill, they just have to show something beyond wishful thinking and random chance.

    As for Tiger Woods, considering the average person’s liklihood of winning a professional golf tournament, 27% is really amazing.

  • 160. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Yea, as insightful as you all are I am sure we have all heard these arguments before and if we still stand firm to our convictions I am sure that it would take a lot to change our minds. But before I go, I am not sure if you all are into religious satire, but look up Mr. Deity and/or God’s Inc on youtube.

  • 161. ubi dubium  |  August 13, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Brandon

    I just think that we as a society should be equally careful in what we let in and what we completely disregard, that’s all.

    I think as a society, we are entirely too ready to let anything in, as long as it sounds good. That’s how we end up with miracle diet pills, detox foot pads, magnetic bracelets, pyramid schemes and Scientology. I think we need tougher standards.

    I checked out a little Mr. Deity. Priceless – I’ll have to look at the rest. Thanks for the reference.

  • 162. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    “I think we need tougher standards.”

    Ebonically speaking, TRU DAT!!!!

    Check out the Ep where Mr. Deity is trying to convince his son Jesus to go down to earth and get crucified. That one is hilarious!

  • 163. Joe Kidd  |  June 2, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    QuestionMonkey,

    You began by saying “I’ve heard Christians say that what one must do is look at the life of Jesus, and decide what you make of him.”

    You are right. I’ve heard that, too. However, if you know very many Christians, you probably also know that there seem to be more “truths” concerning Christ and the bible than there are people in what ever town or city you live in. If one were absolutely convinced that the Bible is in all ways absolutely reliable, one would still be hard pressed to find the so-called “interpretation” of it that one could consider reliable.

    I would like to submit for your consideration, a short story:

    One night, a police officer walking his beat came across a man crawling about the sidewalk beneath a street lamp. “What are you doing?” asked the officer.

    “I dropped a silver dollar, I am looking for it here.”

    “Oh,” said the officer, “Is it a valuable one?”

    “Well, besides being the only dollar I happen to own at the moment, yes, it is very old, and worth quite a bit of money” came the reply. “I was walking down the sidewalk in front of that cafe down the street and I heard it drop when I pulled my keys out of my pocket” said the man.

    “You dropped it down the street in front of the cafe and you are looking for it here, on the corner? Why on earth look for it here if you dropped it down there?” asked the policeman.

    “Well,” said the man, “This is where the street light shines best on the sidewalk.”

    My point is this: To research the character of Jesus in the Bible and see what one thinks of him is a good thing to do, and should be done by any honest hearted Christian. But it is better to seek first ones self in the Bible and discover what Jesus thinks of you. I realize that may sound a bit foolish, but, my own experience is that the Bible has so perfectly reflected my own character, thoughts, heart, desires, shortcomings, strengths, fears, hopes and even my foolishnesses during all the situations and circumstances of my life that I have come to hold it absolutely reliable.

    Are the miricles of the Bible true? I believe so. But I did not come to that belief by researching Jesus. I came to that conclusion in astonishment of the perfection in which I found my own heart and mind and most inner thoughts written in the pages of the Bible. For me, it is easier to believe in the miracle performing Jesus than it is to believe that some 44 different writers of such varying backgrounds over a period of some 1500 years could have written 66 different books 2000 years ago that when put together so perfectly define my own heart and and mind and it’s varying conditions and my most secret thoughts throughout my life.

    Ultimately, whether or not every miracle actually happened as described in the Bible is not what I am convinced of or by. Though I do believe the Biblical record is true, the miracles are of secondary consideration to me. I am convinced the Bible is true by the reality of my own heart and mind, where I live, where no one but me lives, unless it be the ultimate author of that sacred book, the spirit of God which moved those men to write as they did. Christ, after all, did not come to be a showmen, but that men might be reconciled to God and that by the reconciliation with God in our hearts and minds, our souls might be saved.

    You also said: “However, once I have come to the decision that the Bible IS reliable, then its game over, you can consider me a Christian.” Well, there is no one that convince you of the reliablity of Gods word. It is not an argument that can be won by those who affirm it against those who deny it, or by those who deny it against those who confirm it for that matter. Learn where to look. That, my friend, would be in your own heart and mind. Then, by dilligence and growing faith, the light, unlike the street light in the story, shines not just in one place, but in every corner of the mind that finds itself written in the word of God. Man cannot convince you. Neither will a consideration of miracles, no matter how you try. Only one thing can convince any man, or woman. That is God himself. But you have to meet him in the your being, where you live, not in the logic of philosophical discussion or argument.

    You have been created in his own image (spiritualy speaking, of course) and when you find Jesus, you will find that he has been waiting there, in your own heart, all along.

    Joseph R. Kidd

  • 164. Quester  |  June 3, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Wow, Kidd, you honestly find the idea that you are not so unique and that human nature is not so changed that you can find echoes of your own thoughts and feelings in this book of ancient myths and laws to be less likely than some guy came back from the dead?

    Reliability is not a test of how much you like something, or how much you hant it to be true, but how well it conforms to reality and allows you to predict what will happen in the world that is. Whatever takes place in your heart or mind beyond blood pumping and electrical charges in irrelevant compared to what evidence can or can not be found in the world around us.

    You exist, as does the world you, and when you next stub your toe, you will find that no work of imagination or faith will change what really is.

  • 165. Joe Kidd  |  June 3, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Questor:

    James 1:7 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

    Perhaps it is my imagination, but I have found this to be a true statement. It has nothing to do with stubbing toes.

    Perhaps your own wisdom is to impressive for you to get beyond. I stand by the things I said. Also, as observed in the Bible, spiritual things cannot be discerned by the natural mind. Stubbing ones toe is a natural thing to do, so is saying “ouch”. All of which has nothing to do with the human soul, which you no doubt do not believe in.

    As I observed in my first post, logical or philosophical discussion cannot resolve the question of the reliability of the Bible. To enter into such a discussion would only be a waste of time for both you and me. I will not debate with you whether or not the Bible is the authentic Word of God. I made my original comments to ‘QuestionMonkey’ and I stand by them.

    Joe

  • 166. qmonkey  |  June 3, 2009 at 5:43 am

    >>> .. logical or philosophical discussion cannot resolve the question of the reliability of the Bible

    Any book pertaining to history can of course be analysed to assess it’s reliably. The claim is that Jesus literally and historically existed and said and did some very specific things – and it is these doings and sayings that Christianity is based. It doesn’t mater how much you might want it to be true or feel that its right for you or even how much it makes you happy and joyfilled. That has no relation to its factual accuracy.

    >>I am convinced the Bible is true by the reality of my own heart and mind

    this is a huge mistake, and i submit that you would say the same to a person of another faith who has made judgements on whats true based on a vague ‘reality’ of heart and mind

    I guess you would consider the Koran to be historically unreliable, and I doubt that you would be impressed by a Muslim who says what you have said (substituting bible/Koran Jesus/Mohamed).

  • 167. Quester  |  June 3, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Joe Kidd:

    B.R. Forer (1914-2000) “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    You can stand by your words all you want. They still won’t actually mean anything. I enjoy stories of Peter Pan and robot wars, and the stories I like best are the ones that touch upon essential aspects of human nature- reflecting our “character, thoughts, heart, desires, shortcomings, strengths, fears, hopes and even… foolishnesses”. But while these stories can teach us something about ourselves, the events in them did not actually happen. The characters portrayed do not exist outside of our imagination.

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Attention Christian Readers

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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