Religion: The Deuce

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oxoiron
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby oxoiron » Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:38 pm UTC

Whether or not they follow the same methods, practitioners of magic and religion hold the same irrational belief. Specifically, they believe supernatural forces are in play. There is as much evidence for magic as there is for the existence of gods, but for some reason, society accepts the outrageous claims of religions while rejecting the outrageous claims of magic.

The only differences between the two are semantics and their levels of social acceptability.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:40 pm UTC

oxoiron wrote:The only differences between the two are semantics and their levels of social acceptability.


... semantics like the difference between "religion" and "superstition".

You can say that communism is as incorrect as believing in the aether, and that's fine. But a statement saying "communism is a belief in the aether" is still wrong.
And religion is not superstition.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:22 pm UTC

oxoiron wrote:Whether or not they follow the same methods, practitioners of magic and religion hold the same irrational belief. Specifically, they believe supernatural forces are in play. There is as much evidence for magic as there is for the existence of gods, but for some reason, society accepts the outrageous claims of religions while rejecting the outrageous claims of magic.

The only differences between the two are semantics and their levels of social acceptability.

I'll try not to get too angry while I explain why this is blatantly wrong, because I hear this a lot.

Without going into too much detail, philosophical evidence is still evidence, and cannot be dismissed as superstitious just because it's not empirical. (List of arguments for God's existence). One could even argue that if the agent finds these philosophical arguments compelling, he/she would actually be more compelled to ascribe to Theism than the atheist who subscribes to atheism for empirical reasons, since philosophy is more epistemologically basic.

The philosophical existence of God is unsolved, belief in God is not unwarranted, and religion is not superstition. Religion simply operates under the assertion that God exists, looks for evidence of His influence on history, and then builds a lifestyle around it.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby JBJ » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:17 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:The philosophical existence of God is unsolved, belief in God is not unwarranted, and religion is not superstition. Religion simply operates under the assertion that God exists, looks for evidence of His influence on history, and then builds a lifestyle around it.

And if the evidence was there, I'd support you 100%. Regrettably, there is no evidence outside of philosophical reasoning to assert that God exists. Anyone who purports to have such evidence has either another motive, is delusional, or just plain mistaken. Please note, I am not saying that belief in God (or magic, spirits, aliens, or psychic phenomenon for that matter) fall into any of those categories; only those who claim to have some evidence, vision, or revelation to that effect.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:22 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:Religion and magic are distinct things -- at least according to my Intro to Sociology class, which spent some serious time comparing the two. As such comparisons tend to do, this also involved classifying practices as "religion" or "magic", which might sometimes defy their normal classifications.
Some of the fundamental differences mentioned were:
1) Religion includes a concept of the sacred and the profane, while magic does not.
2) Religious rituals are characterized by their community nature; the practices are generally open. Magic rituals are characterizes by the esoteric and secret nature; the practices are generally closed.
3) Similar to #2, religions are observed by communities, while magical practices are observed only by initiated adherents.
... I'm sure there was more. But I think another important distinction as the terms are used in the modern age is a difference between a codified formula with a defined result, and an appeal to personality -- the difference between a spell and a prayer. In a spell, A + B + C --> D; you carry out the rituals and words and such and something relatively well-defined will result. In a prayer, you just ask Being X to make D happen. Now, maybe to ask Being X, you need to do A and say B (and the more there is to A and B, the more the prayer starts to resemble a spell). But a spell focuses on the process, while a prayer focuses on the subject being asked.



There is definitely a distinction. Though by the definitions suggested some religions do involve magic as part of them. I'd say that something like an exorcism performed using holy water and a specific ritual is analogous to magic. I'd say the same thing about special powers being ascribed to holy relics. When the idea is that X ritual is performed on an object, and that after the ritual is performed you can be reasonably sure that the object has property Y (say, being holy, or having an additional substance), that seems to fall in the category of magic (the more "automatic" and certain the supposed results of the ritual, the more solidly it is magic.)
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:38 pm UTC

I think there's some distinction between the belief that a ritual invokes a power or state from an external force and the belief that a ritual confers a power or state through itself.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:59 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:There is definitely a distinction. Though by the definitions suggested some religions do involve magic as part of them. I'd say that something like an exorcism performed using holy water and a specific ritual is analogous to magic. I'd say the same thing about special powers being ascribed to holy relics. When the idea is that X ritual is performed on an object, and that after the ritual is performed you can be reasonably sure that the object has property Y (say, being holy, or having an additional substance), that seems to fall in the category of magic (the more "automatic" and certain the supposed results of the ritual, the more solidly it is magic.)

It's interesting that you use the example of exorcisms, because there are actually two different accounts in the New Testament to specifically show that exorcism is NOT a spell -- two different occasions where men go through the motions, but the demons aren't forced out of their hosts, because the power of God was not there.
In Christianity specifically, the focus in magic-like incidents, miracles, is personality-based and not ritual-based. Hence the distinction from magic.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:14 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:
setzer777 wrote:There is definitely a distinction. Though by the definitions suggested some religions do involve magic as part of them. I'd say that something like an exorcism performed using holy water and a specific ritual is analogous to magic. I'd say the same thing about special powers being ascribed to holy relics. When the idea is that X ritual is performed on an object, and that after the ritual is performed you can be reasonably sure that the object has property Y (say, being holy, or having an additional substance), that seems to fall in the category of magic (the more "automatic" and certain the supposed results of the ritual, the more solidly it is magic.)

It's interesting that you use the example of exorcisms, because there are actually two different accounts in the New Testament to specifically show that exorcism is NOT a spell -- two different occasions where men go through the motions, but the demons aren't forced out of their hosts, because the power of God was not there.
In Christianity specifically, the focus in magic-like incidents, miracles, is personality-based and not ritual-based. Hence the distinction from magic.


Oh, I wasn't referring to any biblical examples. More later examples such as the idea that if a priest properly performs a ritual water becomes holy water, or bread becomes the body of Christ. Obviously the specifics vary from church to church, but I remember being taught at my old church (a fairly traditional Lutheran church) that during communion, the sinfulness/sincerity/etc. of the pastor was not relevant - as long as they were ordained and properly performed the ritual, the bread would become the body of Christ no matter what.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby oxoiron » Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:24 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:You can say that communism is as incorrect as believing in the aether, and that's fine. But a statement saying "communism is a belief in the aether" is still wrong.
And religion is not superstition.
Wow. That puts you in the running for the Worst Analogy of the Year Award, and considering you are competing on the Interwebz, that is no mean feat.

Let's try a more realistic analogy.

Religion is to superstition as Granny Smith is to apple.

Religious beliefs are just a type of superstition in the same way that Granny Smiths are just a type of apple.

You (or anybody else, for that matter) have yet to address how the belief that walking under a ladder is bad luck differs from the belief that accepting Jesus as your savior keeps you from eternal damnation. There isn't a shred of evidence for either belief, yet you consider one superstition and the other rational. At least if we assign a metric to luck, we can determine experimentally if the ladder thing holds water. Currently, the only way to test the Jesus thing is to kill some people and ask them how things worked out. However, this has attendant problems, because contrary to popular belief, all available evidence suggests that dead people stay dead (and incommunicado).

I don't mean to pick on Christianity specifically, it just happens to be the belief system I know best. I'm non-discriminatory in my belief that followers of most religions are delusional.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:37 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:Oh, I wasn't referring to any biblical examples. More later examples such as the idea that if a priest properly performs a ritual water becomes holy water, or bread becomes the body of Christ. Obviously the specifics vary from church to church, but I remember being taught at my old church (a fairly traditional Lutheran church) that during communion, the sinfulness/sincerity/etc. of the pastor was not relevant - as long as they were ordained and properly performed the ritual, the bread would become the body of Christ no matter what.


Yes; this is very much true for Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Assyrian Church of the East, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and other branches of Christianity with more conservative theology and liturgy. The Council of Arles in 314, in rejecting Donatism, affirmed that Sacraments are efficacious "ex opere operato," regardless of the minister's personal worthiness.

Oxoiron: nobody is talking about evidence for Christianity, or the truth of it. Quit trolling.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby oxoiron » Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:53 pm UTC

I'm not trolling. I really want someone to explain how religious and superstitious beliefs substantively differ.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:11 pm UTC

Oculus did that bottom of last page. You're defining "substantive" in a way that automatically rejects the actual differences.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby JBJ » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:15 pm UTC

oxoiron wrote:I'm not trolling. I really want someone to explain how religious and superstitious beliefs substantively differ.

I'll try... hopping on the analogy train:
Hot and cold is to temperature as superstition and religion is to the metaphysical

Religion is a more transcendental concept where superstition is a more cosmological concept. Just as hot and cold are only relative to an arbitrary point, religion and superstition are relative to an arbitrary point as well. Religion is not a type of superstition contrary to your previous statement.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:36 pm UTC

oxoiron wrote:You (or anybody else, for that matter) have yet to address how the belief that walking under a ladder is bad luck differs from the belief that accepting Jesus as your savior keeps you from eternal damnation. There isn't a shred of evidence for either belief, yet you consider one superstition and the other rational.

No, I didn't say that. Superstition is not "all irrational beliefs". Superstition is a specific set of (irrational?) beliefs. Religion is a different set of (irrational?) beliefs.
Your approach here does seem to be getting to the point of troll-worthiness.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Woofsie » Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:07 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Oculus did that bottom of last page. You're defining "substantive" in a way that automatically rejects the actual differences.


No, Oculus explained the difference between religion and magic. Superstition =/= magic. Religion is not the same as magic, but both religion and magic are superstitions. Nobody has given a compelling argument to the contrary yet.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:24 am UTC

The American Heritage Dictionary, as I quoted at the start of this discussion wrote:Superstition--A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.


Religion is generally not "ignorance of the laws of nature" or "faith in ... chance." Oculus showed that it is also not faith in magic. If you would like to show that religion is a superstition, the burden of proof is on you to provide a superior definition of "superstition" that includes "religion" as a hyponym.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:56 am UTC

JBJ wrote:
MoghLiechty2 wrote:The philosophical existence of God is unsolved, belief in God is not unwarranted, and religion is not superstition. Religion simply operates under the assertion that God exists, looks for evidence of His influence on history, and then builds a lifestyle around it.

And if the evidence was there, I'd support you 100%. Regrettably, there is no evidence outside of philosophical reasoning to assert that God exists. Anyone who purports to have such evidence has either another motive, is delusional, or just plain mistaken. Please note, I am not saying that belief in God (or magic, spirits, aliens, or psychic phenomenon for that matter) fall into any of those categories; only those who claim to have some evidence, vision, or revelation to that effect.

I believe that various religions may have a sort of historical "evidence" associated with them, if not strong and compelling evidence. As an example I'm familiar with (being a Christian): The resurrection of Jesus has several aspects that surround it that, while insufficient to overcome the epistemic barrier of the low intrinsic probability of supernatural events, are cause to pause and investigate. Certainly, at least, the evidence does not convincingly point to any specific natural explanation for the empty tomb, post-resurrection appearances and the apparent zeal of the apostles following. At the very least, my belief in such an event is justifiable if not warranted or compelling.

(Practitioners of other religions may be able to cite their own examples or give reason why their own belief is justified.)

Religious beliefs in supernatural events are possibly justifiable interpretations of historical or current events, which are exceptional enough to possibly warrant a supernatural or "special" explanation. Superstition, on the other hand, is unjustifiable, not based in reason, and is generally defined by some sort of psychology

Edit: @oxoiron: Even if you find my example uncompelling, I guess my point is: Religions have reputable scholars and philosophers that adhere to them. Superstitions have none.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby JBJ » Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:09 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:I believe that various religions may have a sort of historical "evidence" associated with them, if not strong and compelling evidence. As an example I'm familiar with (being a Christian): The resurrection of Jesus has several aspects that surround it that, while insufficient to overcome the epistemic barrier of the low intrinsic probability of supernatural events, are cause to pause and investigate. Certainly, at least, the evidence does not convincingly point to any specific natural explanation for the empty tomb, post-resurrection appearances and the apparent zeal of the apostles following. At the very least, my belief in such an event is justifiable if not warranted or compelling.
There is often no specific natural explanation for [insert supernatural event], there are often many natural explanations. Just as there are many supernatural explanations. It just happens that the religious usually settle on one of the possible supernatural explanations and stick with it. This does not make it right, nor does it make it compelling, and lastly, it does not constitute evidence.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:42 pm UTC

JBJ wrote: It just happens that the religious usually settle on one of the possible supernatural explanations and stick with it.

You must be implying that the choice of settling on one of the possible supernatural explanations is arbitrary or unjustified (but not, like I said, universally compelling). This is not necessarily the case for every religious person.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby JBJ » Thu Jul 16, 2009 5:30 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:
JBJ wrote: It just happens that the religious usually settle on one of the possible supernatural explanations and stick with it.

You must be implying that the choice of settling on one of the possible supernatural explanations is arbitrary or unjustified (but not, like I said, universally compelling). This is not necessarily the case for every religious person.

No, that's not what I was implying. What I meant was that a when a religious institution is faced with contradicting issues it makes a decision to settle on a specific stance. The holding of ecumenical councils supports this point. I'm not saying their decisions were arbitrary as I'm sure strong arguments were made for various sides of each issue discussed. But faced with a choice of supernatural explanation A or supernatural explanation B, the choice is still going to be a supernatural explanation.

Regarding the link, I tried to read it objectively, I really did. But the "question" regarding the invention of miracle stories is so clearly sockpuppetry. Biased article is biased.

Claims of supernatural events are just that. Claims. Presenting them as fact without evidence is just plain wrong. For others to believe those claims they have to be given as testimony. While technically testimony is a form of evidence, it is only acceptable as evidence if it comes from a credible, unbiased, and corroborated source. I have yet to encounter any testimony to a supernatural event that meets that criteria. In my opinion all of the philosophical and scholarly work based on such testimony is suspect no matter how well argued.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby duckshirt » Thu Jul 16, 2009 8:35 pm UTC

What makes you assume all testimonies in the Bible were biased? Many of the testimonies of Jesus were from people you'd expect to be biased against him, if anything. Half of the new testament was written by a guy in a pretty high position who hated and terrorized followers of Christ who, reluctantly at first, gave up that life.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:45 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:No, that's not what I was implying. What I meant was that a when a religious institution is faced with contradicting issues it makes a decision to settle on a specific stance. The holding of ecumenical councils supports this point. I'm not saying their decisions were arbitrary as I'm sure strong arguments were made for various sides of each issue discussed. But faced with a choice of supernatural explanation A or supernatural explanation B, the choice is still going to be a supernatural explanation.

Yes, and the choice is either going to be justifiable or unjustifiable. Examination of the evidence is what will determine this. Remember, I still agree with you that the "evidence" is not strong enough to be compelling enough to always choose the supernatural explanation. Indeed, the existence of apostates proves this to be the case, but the fact that the church continues on is not evidence of only choosing supernatural explanations. Also, I'm a non-demoninational-esque Protestant, so doctrines and ecumenical councils don't mean a lot to me. If there is a contradiction on a certain issue, I'll recognize the possibility for both sides, then continue to ignore it as I go back to focusing on what's really important.

Regarding the link, I tried to read it objectively, I really did. But the "question" regarding the invention of miracle stories is so clearly sockpuppetry. Biased article is biased.

This does not constitute an argument. You have no idea whether the question is sockpuppetry. The question at the beginning of the article could just have easily been hostile, and the lengthy, fairly scholarly response (biased or unbiased) would have been the same. Find me an unbiased article that explains why choosing the possibility of any of the natural explanations for the Biblical miracle stories is preferable to choosing a supernatural explanation, and I'll concede the point.

I have yet to encounter any testimony to a supernatural event that meets that criteria. In my opinion all of the philosophical and scholarly work based on such testimony is suspect no matter how well argued.
Absolutely. While I'm also skeptical of historical proofs of my religion, I recognize that possibly there may be merit to the arguments, and recognize that such arguments have led many to the faith rather than from it.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby JBJ » Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:30 am UTC

duckshirt wrote:What makes you assume all testimonies in the Bible were biased? Many of the testimonies of Jesus were from people you'd expect to be biased against him, if anything. Half of the new testament was written by a guy in a pretty high position who hated and terrorized followers of Christ who, reluctantly at first, gave up that life.

Not always biased, sometimes uncorroborated. But if you want to talk about Paul, then I'm going to go with biased. Yes, he was a Pharisee who converted to Christianity which makes for a great story. However, I never read anything into his account that it was a reluctant conversion. By all accounts the whole blindness thing made him choose pretty quickly.

First I've got to point out the glaring contradiction with Paul's revelation.
Acts 9:7 "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."
Acts 22:9 "My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me."

So did they see and not hear, or hear and not see? Moving past the contradiction, what happened to his companions? Did they convert, or were they among the Jews who later conspired against him? Either way his traveling buddies supposedly witnessed a supernatural event and nothing else was said about it? Were they around when he was cured of his blindness by Ananias? Totally missed an opportunity for some additional corroboration.

Now for my analysis of his miraculous conversion; Paul, of his own admission, rose quickly through the ranks of the Jewish priesthood by his zealotry. What's more plausible to me is that he was a very astute man who read the religious climate and decided to switch teams. He never encountered Jesus while alive so the only way to accomplish this would be to have a vision. It makes for a very compelling story but is totally unsubstantiated. It also served to put him into a very high position of the new church, so I've got to go with biased.

JBJ wrote:...faced with a choice of supernatural explanation A or supernatural explanation B, the choice is still going to be a supernatural explanation.
MoghLiechty2 wrote:Yes, and the choice is either going to be justifiable or unjustifiable. Examination of the evidence is what will determine this. Remember, I still agree with you that the "evidence" is not strong enough to be compelling enough to always choose the supernatural explanation. Indeed, the existence of apostates proves this to be the case, but the fact that the church continues on is not evidence of only choosing supernatural explanations. Also, I'm a non-demoninational-esque Protestant, so doctrines and ecumenical councils don't mean a lot to me. If there is a contradiction on a certain issue, I'll recognize the possibility for both sides, then continue to ignore it as I go back to focusing on what's really important.

JBJ wrote:Regarding the link, I tried to read it objectively, I really did. But the "question" regarding the invention of miracle stories is so clearly sockpuppetry. Biased article is biased.

This does not constitute an argument. You have no idea whether the question is sockpuppetry. The question at the beginning of the article could just have easily been hostile, and the lengthy, fairly scholarly response (biased or unbiased) would have been the same. Find me an unbiased article that explains why choosing the possibility of any of the natural explanations for the Biblical miracle stories is preferable to choosing a supernatural explanation, and I'll concede the point.

And what I'm saying is that there is no evidence. As I said before, testimony does not constitute evidence if it is biased or uncorroborated. For the record, I believe that lack of evidence does not preclude the possibility of the supernatural, nor does it favor a natural explanation, but if you are trying to justify a supernatural event the burden of proof falls on those who support the supernatural claim. Taking these stories at face value and holding them up as fact does not fly with me despite the number or reputation of people who do so.

Regarding the question posed in the link, you're right, I can't prove that it was sockpuppetry. It certainly smells of it though.
If there isn't [a possibility of the miracles being fabricated], then, after 10 months of being an Agnostic and struggling with my own humanity, I can do nothing but pronounce myself a Christian...
If it's not sockpuppetry it's about as close as it can come. I don't hold much hope for a truly unbiased article, but I'll look for something as objective as I can. No luck searching so far this evening.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:31 am UTC

JBJ wrote:First I've got to point out the glaring contradiction with Paul's revelation.
Acts 9:7 "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."
Acts 22:9 "My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me."

Not to interject but, to take the verses at face value: His companions heard a voice, but didn't understand it, and saw a light, but no man. How is this contradictory, even in the slightest? The fact that they saw evidence of the supernatural (which, as Jews, they would believe in) served as corroboration in the sense that Saul then knew it wasn't just some psychological event, but they themselves wouldn't be compelled to cease persecuting Christianity. Then, the newly-named Paul would have no reason to use their conversion to Christianity as corroborating evidence, since it didn't happen.

And what I'm saying is that there is no evidence. As I said before, testimony does not constitute evidence if it is biased or uncorroborated. For the record, I believe that lack of evidence does not preclude the possibility of the supernatural, nor does it favor a natural explanation, but if you are trying to justify a supernatural event the burden of proof falls on those who support the supernatural claim. Taking these stories at face value and holding them up as fact does not fly with me despite the number or reputation of people who do so.

Absolutely again. However, evidences for and against biases and lack or abundance of corroborating evidence are also genuine considerations examined by the said reputable people, and are even both addressed in that link I have.

Regarding the question posed in the link, you're right, I can't prove that it was sockpuppetry. It certainly smells of it though.
If there isn't [a possibility of the miracles being fabricated], then, after 10 months of being an Agnostic and struggling with my own humanity, I can do nothing but pronounce myself a Christian...
If it's not sockpuppetry it's about as close as it can come.

I know of the author of the article pretty well through his website, and I see no reason to believe the question at the beginning of this particular article is sockpuppetry. A substantial portion of questions that begin his other articles (and you should have a look) are in fact "intellectually hostile" in the sense that they aren't easy pickings for the subject at hand. I don't doubt the possibility that the person writing this question exists, since, like I said, there are people who have genuinely arrived at the Christian position due to the evidence (even if not compelling).

I don't hold much hope for a truly unbiased article, but I'll look for something as objective as I can. No luck searching so far this evening.

No worries, I won't fly it in front of your face if you can't. Adherents of Christianity generally have greater motivation to write articles that end up being a defense of the Christian position than non-Christians do for writing articles that (unbiasedly) are critical of it.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Phill » Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:13 am UTC

JBJ wrote:Now for my analysis of his miraculous conversion; Paul, of his own admission, rose quickly through the ranks of the Jewish priesthood by his zealotry. What's more plausible to me is that he was a very astute man who read the religious climate and decided to switch teams. He never encountered Jesus while alive so the only way to accomplish this would be to have a vision. It makes for a very compelling story but is totally unsubstantiated. It also served to put him into a very high position of the new church, so I've got to go with biased.


Let us not forget that converting to Christianity also got Paul tortured - several times - and eventually executed. For example:

2 Corinthians 11:23-27 wrote:... I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.


This hardly strikes me as being the option someone would take if they didn't passionately believe in it.

JBJ wrote:And what I'm saying is that there is no evidence. As I said before, testimony does not constitute evidence if it is biased or uncorroborated. For the record, I believe that lack of evidence does not preclude the possibility of the supernatural, nor does it favor a natural explanation, but if you are trying to justify a supernatural event the burden of proof falls on those who support the supernatural claim. Taking these stories at face value and holding them up as fact does not fly with me despite the number or reputation of people who do so.


I'm sure there's been a similar discussion in this thread before, about what constitutes evidence. My own view is that if anything other than unbiased testimony does not constitute evidence, then no testimony constitutes evidence. Everyone is biased, to a degree - even when trying to be objective.

You just have to analyse what testimony you do have and try to come to the truth. The gospel writers probably were biased, sure. But that doesn't mean what they wrote is not true... I'm not sure what motives they would have had for willingly and complicitly making stuff up. And so on.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:16 pm UTC

Phill wrote:I'm sure there's been a similar discussion in this thread before, about what constitutes evidence. My own view is that if anything other than unbiased testimony does not constitute evidence, then no testimony constitutes evidence. Everyone is biased, to a degree - even when trying to be objective.


I agree. That's why when it comes to events that go completely against my understanding of how the universe works, it takes a lot more than the testimony of a small group of people. If a group of people in modern times said they knew a man who could do all sorts of unquestionably supernatural miracles, I wouldn't take their word for it - even if I couldn't think of any reason for them to lie, and they suffered a great deal for talking about this man's miracles. Even if them lying seemed implausible, it would still seem *more* plausible than the idea that some human being can completely suspend the regular course of reality simply by willing it.

Now, testimony that doesn't make supernatural claims is just as questionable. The difference is that a lot of testimony doesn't contradict things that I have good reason to believe, so I might as well accept testimony as tentative knowledge until in contradicts something I have strong cause (beyond other testimony) to take as true.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby JBJ » Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:02 pm UTC

To the best of my knowledge most of the previous evidence debate was centered on scientific and/or empirical evidence. If testimony was discussed I either missed it or it may have been buried amongst other things. I agree, truly unbiased testimony is really hard to come by. This does not mean that all portions of a testimony are unbiased or untrue, it just makes it more difficult to separate the signal from the noise.

Now I am not dismissing all of the content of the gospels. I am only rejecting the supernatural elements of those stories. These are some of the arguments I see time and again supporting the supernatural claims of the gospels.

There is historical and archaeological evidence that shows these Jesus existed.
Not an argument. Elements of biographical accuracy do not provide evidence of supernatural elements.
If this were a valid argument then Davy Crockett really killed a bear when he was 3 years old and saved the world when a comet got tangled up with the north pole.

The gospels can't be classified as historical fiction since that literary style didn't become popular until well after the gospels were released.

Not necessarily wrong, but definitely misleading and certainly not conclusive.
Literary styles take some time to get momentum. The original sources are often lost to history or only bear partial resemblance to the recognized genre. It is just as likely that the gospels were an influence for the later development of historical fiction. Just saying something is not something else doesn't give it credibility.

Jesus and early Christians were persecuted/tortured/killed for their beliefs.
Happens all the time. How many political prisoners have experienced the same fate? How many Jews and Muslims experienced the same fate at the hands of the Inquisition? It seems natural to hold self preservation ahead of belief especially when only a minor concession would spare the fate of torture or death. Those who hold to their beliefs despite all adversity send a powerful message but it does not mean that their belief is correct or even justified on that merit. It only goes to show that they believe it.

I'm really not picking on Christianity here, the same principle applies to any other religion that makes supernatural claims. With regards to Christianity, I have great admiration for many of the morals and principles it teaches. I also have respect for other religions that put forth similar values. I respect the teachings on their own merit, not because of some supernatural authority.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Xanbatou » Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:47 pm UTC

Off-topic: This is my first post here. I normally just lurk these boards, but I decided to finally sign up so I could respond to something 8)

Also, wth? Those captchas to register were ridiculously difficult.

On-topic:

Jesus and early Christians were persecuted/tortured/killed for their beliefs.
Happens all the time. How many political prisoners have experienced the same fate? How many Jews and Muslims experienced the same fate at the hands of the Inquisition? It seems natural to hold self preservation ahead of belief especially when only a minor concession would spare the fate of torture or death. Those who hold to their beliefs despite all adversity send a powerful message but it does not mean that their belief is correct or even justified on that merit. It only goes to show that they believe it.

I'm really not picking on Christianity here, the same principle applies to any other religion that makes supernatural claims. With regards to Christianity, I have great admiration for many of the morals and principles it teaches. I also have respect for other religions that put forth similar values. I respect the teachings on their own merit, not because of some supernatural authority.


Normally, I would agree with you, but Christianity happens to be fairly peculiar in this way. Now, I'm not a guru when it comes to Religion, but if my memory serves me correctly, this argument cannot actually be applied to Christianity. Here's why:

The most supernatural event in the Bible, and definitely the most important, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All the disciples claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus. All of the disciples, except John, were martyred. So, here are the options:

A) The Disciples saw the resurrected Jesus
B) The Disciples thought they saw a resurrected Jesus, but actually didn't and they all simultaneously had the same hallucination.
C) The Disciples did not see the resurrected Jesus and created a grand web of lies

You don't believe A happened.

B is not unheard of. There are plenty of accounts of group hallucinations. However, the odds of this being a group hallucination are slim. Group hallucinations require a couple things:

1. Emotional Excitement
2. An expectation of something to happen

As far as emotional excitement goes, the apostles just had their teacher crucified. I doubt they were very emotionally excited.

Where it doesn't fit for sure though, is an expectation of something to happen. Examining scriptures will reveal that none of the apostles expected Jesus to rise from the dead and didn't understand him when he said that he would. The bible also says that they were surprised and confused after the resurrection, and some didn't even recognize Jesus. So the odds of it being a group hallucination are slim, since it doesn't really fit the bill.

So the other remaining option is C: a deliberate fabrication. Considering that they were all martyred though, this doesn't seem very likely. How many people would give up their lives (and surrender themselves to an excruciatingly painful death) for something that they KNEW was a lie? I reckon not many.

However, none of this applies if you don't take the Bible at face value so...take it as you will.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Philwelch » Sat Jul 18, 2009 3:27 am UTC

It always amuses me when religious people base their arguments on the assumption of taking the Bible at face value. That's exactly what we're *not* doing.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby JBJ » Sat Jul 18, 2009 3:28 am UTC

Xanbatou wrote:The most supernatural event in the Bible, and definitely the most important, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All the disciples claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus. All of the disciples, except John, were martyred. So, here are the options:

A) The Disciples saw the resurrected Jesus
B) The Disciples thought they saw a resurrected Jesus, but actually didn't and they all simultaneously had the same hallucination.
C) The Disciples did not see the resurrected Jesus and created a grand web of lies

You don't believe A happened.

You're right, I don't believe A happened. Not possible.
B is certainly a possible natural explanation, but as you said the odds are slim. Possible, but not plausible.
You're close with Option C, but the 'grand web of lies' is a little loaded.
Let me rephrase option C for you - they did not see the resurrected Jesus and came up with the resurrection story so the movement he started wouldn't fizzle out. Possible and plausible.

Jesus was by all accounts a very charismatic leader. His followers thought he would get the Jewish people out from Roman occupation. Hard to do that when you're dead. Any military action against Rome would have been fruitless, but Jesus taught love and acceptance. He was possibly the first practitioner of civil disobedience and it caught on. He influenced a lot of people.
Considering that they were all martyred though, this doesn't seem very likely. How many people would give up their lives (and surrender themselves to an excruciatingly painful death) for something that they KNEW was a lie? I reckon not many.

They were not killed for believing that Jesus was resurrected. They were killed because they represented a threat to the political order of the time. It's not like Nero or Agrippa said to them "Hey, we're cool with all of your political leanings and we'll overlook the whole upsetting of the Empire thing if you just admit you didn't really see your old teacher come back from the dead." No, they believed strongly in their political movement.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Sat Jul 18, 2009 3:28 am UTC

Yeah, I don't really get the point of such arguments. If you're taking the Bible at face value, you'll believe it when it says all those miracles happened.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby duckshirt » Sat Jul 18, 2009 5:11 am UTC

JBJ wrote:First I've got to point out the glaring contradiction with Paul's revelation.
Acts 9:7 "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."
Acts 22:9 "My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me."

So did they see and not hear, or hear and not see?
Well, based on only those two verses, without reading into it much they (a) saw light, (b) did not see a man, (c) heard a voice, and (d) did not understand the voice... I do not see a necessary contradiction from what you've quoted, but I haven't read into it more.
What's more plausible to me is that he was a very astute man who read the religious climate and decided to switch teams. He never encountered Jesus while alive so the only way to accomplish this would be to have a vision. It makes for a very compelling story but is totally unsubstantiated.
I don't see how it's any more unsubstantial than anything else... Is there any possible conversion event that people wouldn't doubt?
It also served to put him into a very high position of the new church, so I've got to go with biased.
This is where I disagree. I respect your knowledge of Saul/Paul's conversion, but what about the rest of his life? What 'high position' was he hoping to rise to? Spending the rest of his life on the road, getting flogged and/or imprisioned, working random jobs along the way for enough money to finance his missionary trips and his letters to early churches? And despite the 'team' he switched to continued to be persecuted for hundreds of years after his death, yet he never 'switched' back?

I wish I could add onto some more parts of the conversation, but it's getting late...
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:54 pm UTC

duckshirt wrote:
What's more plausible to me is that he was a very astute man who read the religious climate and decided to switch teams. He never encountered Jesus while alive so the only way to accomplish this would be to have a vision. It makes for a very compelling story but is totally unsubstantiated.
I don't see how it's any more unsubstantial than anything else... Is there any possible conversion event that people wouldn't doubt?

No.
Believing the testimony of witnesses is a very subjective thing. Any witness is easy to dismiss if you have a fundamental problem or disagreement with what they claim to have seen. In fact, I can't see any way around this happening. So, don't feel bad that accounts that you find very convincing are still denegrated and ignored by those who are in strong opposition to the consequences of accepting the accounts. It happens a lot.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:24 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:
duckshirt wrote:
What's more plausible to me is that he was a very astute man who read the religious climate and decided to switch teams. He never encountered Jesus while alive so the only way to accomplish this would be to have a vision. It makes for a very compelling story but is totally unsubstantiated.
I don't see how it's any more unsubstantial than anything else... Is there any possible conversion event that people wouldn't doubt?

No.
Believing the testimony of witnesses is a very subjective thing. Any witness is easy to dismiss if you have a fundamental problem or disagreement with what they claim to have seen. In fact, I can't see any way around this happening. So, don't feel bad that accounts that you find very convincing are still denegrated and ignored by those who are in strong opposition to the consequences of accepting the accounts. It happens a lot.
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Exactly, in general testimony is believed when it falls in line with one's general understanding of how the world works. While testimony is good enough reason to believe something when you have no reason *not* to, it isn't enough to overcome strong reasons to not believe in the supposed events. This why I don't believe in ghosts or fortune telling even though I've heard stories from people who have no obvious reason to lie that describe events (encountering ghosts, having their future predicted in a very specific way), that aren't obviously described by non-supernatural means.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby AnnaArmour » Sun Aug 02, 2009 9:36 pm UTC

Question for atheists: Do you suppose the stories in the Bible are completely fictional, or exaggerated, embellished, and misunderstood versions of actual events?

If this has already been covered, I'm deeply sorry and appropriately embarrassed of my assumption that this was an original idea.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Heavenlytoaster » Sun Aug 02, 2009 9:41 pm UTC

AnnaArmour wrote:Question for atheists: Do you suppose the stories in the Bible are completely fictional, or exaggerated, embellished, and misunderstood versions of actual events?


Some of both, there were enough different authors after all. Though through translation those that are exaggerated, embellished and misunderstood are probably completely misplaced at this point (i.e hell = Sheol = grave)

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Sun Aug 02, 2009 11:43 pm UTC

AnnaArmour wrote:Question for atheists: Do you suppose the stories in the Bible are completely fictional, or exaggerated, embellished, and misunderstood versions of actual events?

If this has already been covered, I'm deeply sorry and appropriately embarrassed of my assumption that this was an original idea.


A combination of all of the above (plus some true accounts of events). Things like the Garden of Eden story I believe to be completely fictional, whereas some events described I think might have happened minus the miracles (I'm talking about cases where you can plausibly have the overall event without the specific miracle occurring, not where the entire narrative depends on the miracle happening).
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby BotoBoto » Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:33 pm UTC

Heavenlytoaster wrote:
AnnaArmour wrote:Question for atheists: Do you suppose the stories in the Bible are completely fictional, or exaggerated, embellished, and misunderstood versions of actual events?


I believe misunderstood/fictional... a bit of those two As for the beginning of the bible : total fiction. There has been found evidence of life before the bible, however the bible states that the world is 6000 years (give or take, please in all of this correct me if i am wrong.) old, does that not make the entire bible fictional?

Question for christians/all religious people: do you really think (insert omnipotent being here) wrote your sacred book? (Not trying to offend.)

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Xanbatou » Tue Aug 04, 2009 2:43 am UTC

Well, technically, the bible nowhere states the universe was 6,000 years old. People only think that because someone did some sort of study on the genealogies in the Bible and claimed that it meant everything had only been around for 6,000 years. I don't know much about that study though...

Also, it depends what you mean by "wrote". As far as I know, the general christian view is that the Bible was divinely inspired, and not actually physically written by the hand of God or something.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Tue Aug 04, 2009 3:07 am UTC

BotoBoto wrote:There has been found evidence of life before the bible, however the bible states that the world is 6000 years (give or take, please in all of this correct me if i am wrong.) old, does that not make the entire bible fictional?

This is quite a bit misrepresentative of the variety of belief even within the Christian community. Those who hold to the belief that the Bible exclusively states the Earth to be young (the literal 6 days of creation) just flat out have not examined the empirical evidence... which, I mean, they're Christians, mostly concerned with how they live out their lives, placing a substantial amount of faith in the face-value truth of the Bible as a whole. The age of the Earth, however, is not even close to a pillar of faith for the Christian or at all important for the Christian worldview. (If it is for a Christian, he/she flat out needs to cut it out...) So, as long as a Young Earth Creationist doesn't go around claiming to know the Earth is young for any other reason than the reasons they have, I'm fine with it (Indeed, this is my experience with the YEC's I know personally.) But... I know several Biology majors and a geology major, all strong Christians, who continue to hold fast to the Christian faith in spite of the lack of a literal 6-day creation.

Recent and in depth hermaneutical examination of Genesis, however, reveals an entirely different purpose for the first 2 chapters of Genesis than a literal account of an in-time 6 day creation of the Earth and humanity. I, for one, find a substantial amount of interesting points to glean from the chapters having accepted the bulk of scientific findings on the history of the Earth. I find it interesting that on the sixth day it states, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds." (By the way, here's the most modern 'conservative' translation of the text.) This screams at me, "God used natural processes to create the animals," quite like God uses natural processes to fashion every human being. Being "knit together [by God] in my mother's womb" is not exclusive to cellular construction based on DNA. "But why would God choose to do it this way rather that just make it?" the YEC asks... And yet, such distinctions are trivial to an omnipotent God.

Also, a single passage losing a bit of it's literal-ness doesn't even come close to making the 'entire Bible fictional.' This is something that evangelizing atheists would like to be true, because then their goal is reduced to defeating the myth of Young Earth Creationism, as if that defeats the whole of historical Christianity.

Question for christians/all religious people: do you really think (insert omnipotent being here) wrote your sacred book? (Not trying to offend.)

In a view accepted even by conservative Christianity, God wrote the Bible the same way He created the universe, the same way He designs each soul, and in a similar means He draws people to Himself: that is, by using semi-natural means (although there is nothing purely natural in this world), in this case his servants (the authors) in such a way that the Bible's words are His own. The fact that God didn't literally reach down and grab a pen to enscrawl his perfect truth onto the parchment is no loss for the faith. In fact, I would be less inclined to accept a single supposed divinely inspired writing than an entire collection of witnesses' writings, which is what the Bible is.

Xanbatou wrote:Well, technically, the bible nowhere states the universe was 6,000 years old. People only think that because someone did some sort of study on the genealogies in the Bible and claimed that it meant everything had only been around for 6,000 years. I don't know much about that study though...

It's based on several major assumptions. First, that there are absolutely no gaps in the genealogies (which would perhaps be uncommon for such a writing?) that each of the days is literal, and that there is no gap between the creation of the universe and the first day. Major assumptions to be sure. Based on these, the start of the universe would only be 6 days from the creation of man, which would be only 6000 years from now...


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