1003: "Hitler and Eve"

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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Monika » Sat Feb 04, 2012 9:40 pm UTC

The connection between [the belief in] God and mathematical proofs [while awake or sleeping]. xkcd forums ftw!
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Feb 04, 2012 9:54 pm UTC

XTCamus wrote:That's brilliant, I love it. Though I don't think many believers today are going to see much similarities between this and their idea of God...

Well, the point is sort of that their idea of God may be perfectly fine; only it doesn't matter whether the God which they have an idea of exists or not, just what idea they have of God. Do they find their religious stories and parables inspirational? Does it spur them on to do good things? Then it doesn't matter, shouldn't matter to them even, whether or not they are true -- the inspiration is the upshot. If someone reads Superman comics and becomes inspired to defend Truth and Justice, then awesome, good on Superman and good on them; but they don't need to believe Superman really exists in order for that to happen.

So they can keep their idea of God, I'm not trying to disabuse them of it (not here at least, disabuse of different notions of God may vary); I'm only arguing that they don't need to insist on the existence of something instantiating that idea for it to be powerful. They can still strive to be the kind of person Jesus would want them to be, without having to believe he actually ever existed, just because the idea they have of Jesus and what he would want them to be is good and righteous.

Of course, then you get into arguments about what is really good and righteous and are the things whatever deity supposedly would want us to do really good and righteous things, and without a big "my god said so and he's right by definition" stick to shake around, you have to actually use reason and evidence in those arguments. Parables, like analogies, make for good inspiration and illustration, but they don't make for good arguments.

Who will answer their prayers, reward the righteous, and provide retribution to the wicked and the unfaithful? Who will save them from their fear of the unknown, and their fear of not-knowing, and provide the Transcendent meaning to their life that they so crave? Without these traditional aspects of God they are left feeling frightened and alone, face to face with the Void.

That is the empowering thing about realizing that the God which we conceive of is simply the limit to our own personal improvement (however it is that we construe improvement): we ourselves can get arbitrarily close to godliness, though never actually get there. The unknown is knowable. Our problems are surmountable. We are not hopeless and powerless nothings in need of salvation from beyond; our own salvation is within our grasp. We (to use Abrahamic imagery) ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and now we are like God; we are sapient people, conscious and willful, capable of critical evaluation of both what is and what ought to be, and capable of acting on that judgement to change what is to what ought to be; we are no longer merely hominid animals blindly reacting to our experiences with unreflective behavior.

Perhaps a good interpretation of the "Fall" of Man story would be of God as a parent telling his grown children "Ok, you want to be independent and make your own decisions for your own life now? Fine by me. You decide how you're going to pay for food and shelter and clothing then, I won't interfere, you can handle that stuff now."
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby XTCamus » Sat Feb 04, 2012 11:48 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
XTCamus wrote:That's brilliant, I love it. Though I don't think many believers today are going to see much similarities between this and their idea of God...

Well, the point is sort of that their idea of God may be perfectly fine; only it doesn't matter whether the God which they have an idea of exists or not, just what idea they have of God. Do they find their religious stories and parables inspirational? Does it spur them on to do good things? Then it doesn't matter, shouldn't matter to them even, whether or not they are true -- the inspiration is the upshot. If someone reads Superman comics and becomes inspired to defend Truth and Justice, then awesome, good on Superman and good on them; but they don't need to believe Superman really exists in order for that to happen.

So they can keep their idea of God, I'm not trying to disabuse them of it (not here at least, disabuse of different notions of God may vary); I'm only arguing that they don't need to insist on the existence of something instantiating that idea for it to be powerful. They can still strive to be the kind of person Jesus would want them to be, without having to believe he actually ever existed, just because the idea they have of Jesus and what he would want them to be is good and righteous.

Of course, then you get into arguments about what is really good and righteous and are the things whatever deity supposedly would want us to do really good and righteous things, and without a big "my god said so and he's right by definition" stick to shake around, you have to actually use reason and evidence in those arguments. Parables, like analogies, make for good inspiration and illustration, but they don't make for good arguments.

Who will answer their prayers, reward the righteous, and provide retribution to the wicked and the unfaithful? Who will save them from their fear of the unknown, and their fear of not-knowing, and provide the Transcendent meaning to their life that they so crave? Without these traditional aspects of God they are left feeling frightened and alone, face to face with the Void.

That is the empowering thing about realizing that the God which we conceive of is simply the limit to our own personal improvement (however it is that we construe improvement): we ourselves can get arbitrarily close to godliness, though never actually get there. The unknown is knowable. Our problems are surmountable. We are not hopeless and powerless nothings in need of salvation from beyond; our own salvation is within our grasp. We (to use Abrahamic imagery) ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and now we are like God; we are sapient people, conscious and willful, capable of critical evaluation of both what is and what ought to be, and capable of acting on that judgement to change what is to what ought to be; we are no longer merely hominid animals blindly reacting to our experiences with unreflective behavior.

Perhaps a good interpretation of the "Fall" of Man story would be of God as a parent telling his grown children "Ok, you want to be independent and make your own decisions for your own life now? Fine by me. You decide how you're going to pay for food and shelter and clothing then, I won't interfere, you can handle that stuff now."

For the philosophically inclined, yes, this is perfectly fine, and God's actual existence may not matter (even less so for an entirely non-interventionist concept of God.)

But do you think modern believers are going to find such ideas inspirational or empowering? How does this help them right now as they face tragedy, struggle against meaninglessness and dream of a way to transcend their current situation? My point is that this common struggle, and people's valid emotional needs do have to be addressed, it just doesn't always have to involve a leap. This difference may matter little to you and me, but when I listen to the words and tone of believers it sure sounds like it matters to them.

(Edited to remove unnecessary hyperbole.)
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby curtis95112 » Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:07 am UTC

I was thinking about the whole "Land of Nod" thing. If Adam's sons married people that weren't descended from Eve, doesn't that kind of screw up Original Sin? It's supposed to be passed down through the maternal line.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby neoliminal » Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:44 am UTC

curtis95112 wrote:I was thinking about the whole "Land of Nod" thing. If Adam's sons married people that weren't descended from Eve, doesn't that kind of screw up Original Sin? It's supposed to be passed down through the maternal line.


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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby jpk » Sun Feb 05, 2012 5:17 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Kit. wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
J Thomas wrote:My personal Christian idea is that the world has not been fully created yet.

If you'd do that for a little bit of money, doesn't it make sense you'd do it for your immortal soul?


Exactly. And that's why I have a standing deal with any and all deities who may be listening. All they have to do is establish to my satisfaction that they are in fact who they say they are and I'll listen to what they have to say. None of them have yet taken me up on it. Whether that's because they don't exist or don't care or are incapable of establishing their identity, I can't say.

Before you accept the Pope or anybody else as your intermediary with God, you need to first check directly with God whether He wants you to.


So you have established contact with some deity or other? How did you go about verifying its identity?
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:39 am UTC

XTCamus wrote:But do you think modern believers are going to find such ideas inspirational or empowering? How does this help them right now as they face tragedy, struggle against meaninglessness and dream of a way to transcend their current situation? My point is that this common struggle, and people's valid emotional needs do have to be addressed, it just doesn't always have to involve a leap. This difference may matter little to you and me, but when I listen to the words and tone of believers it sure sounds like it matters to them.

I certainly don't think it's going to be an easy sell, because (to be more blunt than I usually like to be) most people are weak and stupid, and want so desperately to take comfort in knowing that someone smarter and stronger will fix their problems for them that they can somehow will themselves to believe that it's true. I hear people actually say, like it's some kind of argument, that "if it weren't true then that would just be so horrible", so they have to believe it's true.

In all honesty I find myself being far more weak and stupid than I would like far more often than I would like and desperately wishing the same thing myself, so I can understand that. I am just too compulsively honest to be able to take comfort in something I don't have genuinely good reasons to believe. Nevertheless I do have lots of fantasies about completely implausible ways that all of my problems could miraculously go away, but I don't claim that they are facts, that my imaginary saviors (who are characters of my own invention, not any established religious figures) really exist outside my imagination.

I would really like to believe that they did, but crossing that line into believing something just because I want it feels like something in my mind straining under pressure, like being asked to lie or do something else you know to be wrong, and like going there would mean being defeated and broken. In a strange, ironic sort of way, I almost feel like my "faith" (in reason) is being tested by hardship; and I see those who have succumbed to the temptation to tell themselves comforting lies as poor, broken souls. Theists often look at atheists and see them as bleak, depressed, pessimistic people with no hope; I see us as the only ones with the courage to face the hardships of reality with our eyes open, instead of hiding from them behind a pleasant fantasy.

Anyway, those two paragraphs were a tangent; what I was driving at is that yes, it will be a hard sell, but it's a silver lining to add to what will be perceived as a dark cloud when you disabuse someone of their belief in the existence of their favorite god. Yes, there is no all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful man in the sky who will fix all your problems; if there were, they would be fixed already. But the good news is, you don't need him; your problems can be fixed without him! People may be weak and stupid, but the first step to making them strong and wise is convincing them that they can become strong and wise; that they don't need someone else to solve their problems for them, because they are capable of it themselves. They may accept the destruction of their faith in their favorite deity, if you can replace it with faith in themselves.

(FWIW, I have had the kind of "transcendent" mystical experiences JT speaks of, quite frequently for a while, always without the help of mind-altering substances or other exacerbating factors, and they did move me and played an important part in shaping my world view and life stance, inspiring me to many profound thoughts [that I later revisited with a more critical eye]; that doesn't mean I attribute them to contact with some kind of deity. I also regularly carried on conversations in my mind with a God I didn't actually believe existed, as a way of coming to terms with something or other, something like writing to a diary. "Religious" experiences and imagery can be enormously useful; but that same sort of usefulness can be found in things that aren't religious too).
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby XTCamus » Sun Feb 05, 2012 5:43 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
XTCamus wrote:But do you think modern believers are going to find such ideas inspirational or empowering? How does this help them right now as they face tragedy, struggle against meaninglessness and dream of a way to transcend their current situation? My point is that this common struggle, and people's valid emotional needs do have to be addressed, it just doesn't always have to involve a leap. This difference may matter little to you and me, but when I listen to the words and tone of believers it sure sounds like it matters to them.

I certainly don't think it's going to be an easy sell, because (to be more blunt than I usually like to be) most people are weak and stupid, and want so desperately to take comfort in knowing that someone smarter and stronger will fix their problems for them that they can somehow will themselves to believe that it's true. I hear people actually say, like it's some kind of argument, that "if it weren't true then that would just be so horrible", so they have to believe it's true.

In all honesty I find myself being far more weak and stupid than I would like far more often than I would like and desperately wishing the same thing myself, so I can understand that. I am just too compulsively honest to be able to take comfort in something I don't have genuinely good reasons to believe. Nevertheless I do have lots of fantasies about completely implausible ways that all of my problems could miraculously go away, but I don't claim that they are facts, that my imaginary saviors (who are characters of my own invention, not any established religious figures) really exist outside my imagination.

I would really like to believe that they did, but crossing that line into believing something just because I want it feels like something in my mind straining under pressure, like being asked to lie or do something else you know to be wrong, and like going there would mean being defeated and broken. In a strange, ironic sort of way, I almost feel like my "faith" (in reason) is being tested by hardship; and I see those who have succumbed to the temptation to tell themselves comforting lies as poor, broken souls. Theists often look at atheists and see them as bleak, depressed, pessimistic people with no hope; I see us as the only ones with the courage to face the hardships of reality with our eyes open, instead of hiding from them behind a pleasant fantasy.

Anyway, those two paragraphs were a tangent; what I was driving at is that yes, it will be a hard sell, but it's a silver lining to add to what will be perceived as a dark cloud when you disabuse someone of their belief in the existence of their favorite god. Yes, there is no all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful man in the sky who will fix all your problems; if there were, they would be fixed already. But the good news is, you don't need him; your problems can be fixed without him! People may be weak and stupid, but the first step to making them strong and wise is convincing them that they can become strong and wise; that they don't need someone else to solve their problems for them, because they are capable of it themselves. They may accept the destruction of their faith in their favorite deity, if you can replace it with faith in themselves.

(FWIW, I have had the kind of "transcendent" mystical experiences JT speaks of, quite frequently for a while, always without the help of mind-altering substances or other exacerbating factors, and they did move me and played an important part in shaping my world view and life stance, inspiring me to many profound thoughts [that I later revisited with a more critical eye]; that doesn't mean I attribute them to contact with some kind of deity. I also regularly carried on conversations in my mind with a God I didn't actually believe existed, as a way of coming to terms with something or other, something like writing to a diary. "Religious" experiences and imagery can be enormously useful; but that same sort of usefulness can be found in things that aren't religious too).

Thank you, Forrest*. Soaring high on such ideas is the closest I get to transcendence these days. And if I had to be honest I'd say that I find you smarter (more logical) and stronger (more honest) than any living person I've ever met. But take my hand, son, and walk with me for a while, as you still have much to learn...

Hidden within the weaknesses you've admitted above lay the seeds of a way to address those "emotional needs" of which I spoke. This is sometimes missing in your elaborate philosophical constructs where it feels as if all such struggles are already overcome. Back up the story a little and spend more time exploring this "weak" place (where so many of the rest of us still are), and maybe you will inspire more?

Irony alert: Have I come to you "desperately to take comfort in knowing that someone smarter and stronger" will fix my problem of inarticulation for me? Um, maybe. Or, hell, just marry me, and we'll work it all out together... (In before someone else says it, kidding, trying to fit in, etc.)

*This is a just unusual enough name to be suitable for anyone, but an even better one for a philosopher as it always reminded me of "seeing the forest for the trees".
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:09 am UTC

jpk wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Kit. wrote:And that's why I have a standing deal with any and all deities who may be listening. All they have to do is establish to my satisfaction that they are in fact who they say they are and I'll listen to what they have to say. None of them have yet taken me up on it. Whether that's because they don't exist or don't care or are incapable of establishing their identity, I can't say.

Before you accept the Pope or anybody else as your intermediary with God, you need to first check directly with God whether He wants you to.


So you have established contact with some deity or other? How did you go about verifying its identity?


Whoa, back up. If you don't feel confident verifying God's identity when he talks to you, how confident should you feel about obeying some other human being who claims to speak for God?


I have a brother-in-law who is very religious. He started hearing voices that told him to commit suicide, and told him to kill his son. He couldn't quite bring himself to obey those voices but he seriously considered it. His uncle found him contemplating his shotgun, and called for a medical intervention. The police surrounded the house and insisted through a bullhorn that he come out visibly unarmed or else they would blast their way in and kill him. He surrendered to them and now he's considered permanently disabled and is on potent antipsychotic medication which, well, renders him permanently disabled. I think it's possible that it all came from him being too credulous. If he had ignored the voices in his head that told him to do crazy things, he would have been a whole lot better off.

For myself, unlike Kit, I don't get too hung up on the identities of voices in my head. I'll listen to anybody if I have the time, and I'll decide for myself whether I want to do what they say. If somebody has good advice I'll take it independent of the source, and if it looks like bad advice I'll put it aside. I do consider what they may have to gain by persuading me, but that isn't a deal-breaker. They don't have to be 100% altruists to give me suggestions. I give random voices in my head the same hearing I give to random pseudonymous internet posters.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:24 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I hear people actually say, like it's some kind of argument, that "if it weren't true then that would just be so horrible", so they have to believe it's true.


I learned to do that kind of reasoning by playing bridge. It went like this: If East has the King of Diamonds then I'm going down. But if West has it, I can make my bid. So I will assume West has it, because if it isn't true I'm screwed anyway. It can sometimes be a pragmatic approach. Better when you can arrange to win regardless, but sometimes that just isn't in the cards.

I also regularly carried on conversations in my mind with a God I didn't actually believe existed, as a way of coming to terms with something or other, something like writing to a diary.


What would Des Cartes think? "God thinks and talks to me, but He doesn't exist." ;)

But we human beings are good at this sort of thing. We construct simulation models of each other and guess how the other would react to things. We can do that with people we've never met, or imaginary intelligent aliens. You can imagine what a conversation with your grandparents would be like, and it's no harder to imagine it if they're currently dead. So I don't at all criticize you for having regular conversations with a God you don't believe exists. I just thought it was funny.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Feb 06, 2012 5:21 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:Whoa, back up. If you don't feel confident verifying God's identity when he talks to you, how confident should you feel about obeying some other human being who claims to speak for God?

False dichotomy. The same people skeptical of your claims of personal contact with God (and of the possibility of having such themselves) are also skeptical of other people's claims of such. Their point is: how is anyone ever to know whether some message comes ultimately from God, whether it popped straight into their own minds in some moment of inspiration, or was passed to them from another person who claims to have been similarly inspired? How can you differentiate either of those scenarios from just coming upon an idea yourself, or being told an idea from someone who just came upon it themselves?

For myself, unlike Kit, I don't get too hung up on the identities of voices in my head. I'll listen to anybody if I have the time, and I'll decide for myself whether I want to do what they say. If somebody has good advice I'll take it independent of the source, and if it looks like bad advice I'll put it aside.

That's a very good approach; but in that case, what does it matter whether a voice in your head is really God or not, if you don't treat it authoritatively? To be clear, I'm not saying you should treat it authoritatively; just asking, if you're not (which I think is the right approach), then what does the source matter?

XTCamus wrote:Hidden within the weaknesses you've admitted above lay the seeds of a way to address those "emotional needs" of which I spoke. This is sometimes missing in your elaborate philosophical constructs where it feels as if all such struggles are already overcome. Back up the story a little and spend more time exploring this "weak" place (where so many of the rest of us still are), and maybe you will inspire more?

I'm not sure what exactly you're suggesting. Can you elaborate?

I certainly don't feel like all these struggles are already overcome. I struggle constantly in the face of near-hopelessness every day just trying to get by in the world. As a child I thought I would grow up to save the world somehow. Now my highest aspiration is to someday own a trailer home so as to be at least minimally independent, and eventually die without owing anybody anything; and even that is a stretch. "Middle class" is an effectively unobtainable dream to me. And I know I'm still a lot better off than a whole lot of other people.

All this high-falutin' abstract philosophy doesn't help me solve my practical problems; and neither would believing that God was gonna make it all better, either. Theists keep on praying hoping that some day God will answer their prayers if they just keep trying and prove themselves worthy or something. I just skip the middle man and keep on trying, hoping that some day something I try will work. The effect is the same either way -- continue struggling along, hoping that things get better somehow -- I just realize I don't have to project my hopes into pleas to some invisible man.

Point being, "backing up" to the view of where the problems are still in your face doesn't reveal to me any great insights that I could share with anyone else to free them of their need to believe. All I can do is sympathize and point out that I manage to keep on trying and keep on hoping without needing to believe in a God to put my hopes in. Likewise with the ethical "argument" (without God, where do morals come from?) like was had earlier in this thread; just point to the existence of atheists with principled ethical stances, or of whole countries full of atheists (Buddhists anyone?) who manage nevertheless to not decay into amoral anomie; and conversely, to the plenty of atrocities committed by "godly" people.

On the rational existential argument side of things, theism has been pushed back so hard that contemporary theistic philosophers of religion don't even bother trying to argue that God exists anymore, they don't even try to argue that God probably exists anymore, they don't even try to argue that God possibly exists anymore; the leading pro-theist arguments today are to the effect that it's not completely irrational to believe that it might be possible that God exists, even if we aren't sure that it is really possible. The atheists have pushes so far past the theist's lines that it's not even really a contest anymore, when it comes to the strict application of reason at least.

So the only really hard part of the argument now is convincing laypeople that accepting the rational argument doesn't mean being faced with a bleak hopeless amoral world. And the only way I can see to do that is to look around, see that the world is pretty bleak sometimes, hope can be hard to find, and not everybody is an upstanding paragon of virtue; but that those things are equally true of the lives of theists and atheists alike, so what does accepting the nonexistence of God really commit them to facing that they aren't facing already? Does God answer all of their prayers and fix all of their problems? Does God strike down every evildoer with lightning? No; believers and disbelievers alike still struggle to get by, and evildoers both faithful and unfaithful still get away with murder, sometimes literally. So what does hope in God and good for God's sake get you, that hope in hope itself and good for good's own sake doesn't?

That's the only argument I can see to be made.

Or, hell, just marry me, and we'll work it all out together...

Your church or mine? ;)
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:48 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Whoa, back up. If you don't feel confident verifying God's identity when he talks to you, how confident should you feel about obeying some other human being who claims to speak for God?

False dichotomy. The same people skeptical of your claims of personal contact with God (and of the possibility of having such themselves) are also skeptical of other people's claims of such.


Sure, but there's that third group who do believe in God and believe that somebody else must intercede for them with God.

Their point is: how is anyone ever to know whether some message comes ultimately from God, whether it popped straight into their own minds in some moment of inspiration, or was passed to them from another person who claims to have been similarly inspired? How can you differentiate either of those scenarios from just coming upon an idea yourself, or being told an idea from someone who just came upon it themselves?


Once you accept a modern-science concept of proof, then it follows you can never really know anything is true. Even if you have an interpretation which is compatible with all the data so far, it could still be wrong and it could still be falsified tomorrow. All you can be sure is that some particular ideas have to be false.

When you can never be sure of anything, there is no possible experience you can have which will persuade you that any God is real.

So to believe that any message comes from God, you have to give up that concept of proof. We could discuss what to replace it with, but I'm reasonably sure you would not be comfortable giving it up at all.

For myself, unlike Kit, I don't get too hung up on the identities of voices in my head. I'll listen to anybody if I have the time, and I'll decide for myself whether I want to do what they say. If somebody has good advice I'll take it independent of the source, and if it looks like bad advice I'll put it aside.

That's a very good approach; but in that case, what does it matter whether a voice in your head is really God or not, if you don't treat it authoritatively? To be clear, I'm not saying you should treat it authoritatively; just asking, if you're not (which I think is the right approach), then what does the source matter?


To me, it doesn't matter what label to put on it. When there's an intense felt sense of rightness, like all the details fltting together with a click, then I call it God because that's what it feels like. Things that feel like they don't come from me don't always feel that way, and when they don't very often there's some fuzziness in the thinking.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby XTCamus » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:19 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Whoa, back up. If you don't feel confident verifying God's identity when he talks to you, how confident should you feel about obeying some other human being who claims to speak for God?

False dichotomy. The same people skeptical of your claims of personal contact with God (and of the possibility of having such themselves) are also skeptical of other people's claims of such. Their point is: how is anyone ever to know whether some message comes ultimately from God, whether it popped straight into their own minds in some moment of inspiration, or was passed to them from another person who claims to have been similarly inspired? How can you differentiate either of those scenarios from just coming upon an idea yourself, or being told an idea from someone who just came upon it themselves?

For myself, unlike Kit, I don't get too hung up on the identities of voices in my head. I'll listen to anybody if I have the time, and I'll decide for myself whether I want to do what they say. If somebody has good advice I'll take it independent of the source, and if it looks like bad advice I'll put it aside.

That's a very good approach; but in that case, what does it matter whether a voice in your head is really God or not, if you don't treat it authoritatively? To be clear, I'm not saying you should treat it authoritatively; just asking, if you're not (which I think is the right approach), then what does the source matter?

XTCamus wrote:Hidden within the weaknesses you've admitted above lay the seeds of a way to address those "emotional needs" of which I spoke. This is sometimes missing in your elaborate philosophical constructs where it feels as if all such struggles are already overcome. Back up the story a little and spend more time exploring this "weak" place (where so many of the rest of us still are), and maybe you will inspire more?

I'm not sure what exactly you're suggesting. Can you elaborate?

I certainly don't feel like all these struggles are already overcome. I struggle constantly in the face of near-hopelessness every day just trying to get by in the world. As a child I thought I would grow up to save the world somehow. Now my highest aspiration is to someday own a trailer home so as to be at least minimally independent, and eventually die without owing anybody anything; and even that is a stretch. "Middle class" is an effectively unobtainable dream to me. And I know I'm still a lot better off than a whole lot of other people.

All this high-falutin' abstract philosophy doesn't help me solve my practical problems; and neither would believing that God was gonna make it all better, either. Theists keep on praying hoping that some day God will answer their prayers if they just keep trying and prove themselves worthy or something. I just skip the middle man and keep on trying, hoping that some day something I try will work. The effect is the same either way -- continue struggling along, hoping that things get better somehow -- I just realize I don't have to project my hopes into pleas to some invisible man.

Point being, "backing up" to the view of where the problems are still in your face doesn't reveal to me any great insights that I could share with anyone else to free them of their need to believe. All I can do is sympathize and point out that I manage to keep on trying and keep on hoping without needing to believe in a God to put my hopes in. Likewise with the ethical "argument" (without God, where do morals come from?) like was had earlier in this thread; just point to the existence of atheists with principled ethical stances, or of whole countries full of atheists (Buddhists anyone?) who manage nevertheless to not decay into amoral anomie; and conversely, to the plenty of atrocities committed by "godly" people.

On the rational existential argument side of things, theism has been pushed back so hard that contemporary theistic philosophers of religion don't even bother trying to argue that God exists anymore, they don't even try to argue that God probably exists anymore, they don't even try to argue that God possibly exists anymore; the leading pro-theist arguments today are to the effect that it's not completely irrational to believe that it might be possible that God exists, even if we aren't sure that it is really possible. The atheists have pushes so far past the theist's lines that it's not even really a contest anymore, when it comes to the strict application of reason at least.

So the only really hard part of the argument now is convincing laypeople that accepting the rational argument doesn't mean being faced with a bleak hopeless amoral world. And the only way I can see to do that is to look around, see that the world is pretty bleak sometimes, hope can be hard to find, and not everybody is an upstanding paragon of virtue; but that those things are equally true of the lives of theists and atheists alike, so what does accepting the nonexistence of God really commit them to facing that they aren't facing already? Does God answer all of their prayers and fix all of their problems? Does God strike down every evildoer with lightning? No; believers and disbelievers alike still struggle to get by, and evildoers both faithful and unfaithful still get away with murder, sometimes literally. So what does hope in God and good for God's sake get you, that hope in hope itself and good for good's own sake doesn't?

That's the only argument I can see to be made.

Or, hell, just marry me, and we'll work it all out together...

Your church or mine? ;)

My reach exceeds my grasp. I need to learn to speak more plainly. (I am not really a pretentious ass, but I can do a fine impression of one. Like addams cajoled, "You have typed so many words. What are you on about?")

It seems from your response that you understood me for the most part. It was presumptuous of me to offer advice, but it was well-intended. I have enjoyed reading your posts and philosophy for over a year. There's a difference sometimes between the two in that in your most honest posts you open up about these struggles and desires for transcendence, among other things, and you are very easy (for me) to relate to. Whereas, for example, your future human perfectability idea and other philosophical constructs can feel somewhat more aloof. So bringing more of this (Camus-like) element into your actual philosophy might be worth considering?

As you say this is still hardly going to address many of life's real practical issues, and I don't think either of us are interested in trying to go there.

The path you outline above for a gentle way to approach believers from an angle of hope and goodness is solid advice. I need to reflect more on whether there was any thing else there that I was trying to ask.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby addams » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:41 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Whoa, back up. If you don't feel confident verifying God's identity when he talks to you, how confident should you feel about obeying some other human being who claims to speak for God?

False dichotomy. The same people skeptical of your claims of personal contact with God (and of the possibility of having such themselves) are also skeptical of other people's claims of such. Their point is: how is anyone ever to know whether some message comes ultimately from God, whether it popped straight into their own minds in some moment of inspiration, or was passed to them from another person who claims to have been similarly inspired? How can you differentiate either of those scenarios from just coming upon an idea yourself, or being told an idea from someone who just came upon it themselves?

For myself, unlike Kit, I don't get too hung up on the identities of voices in my head. I'll listen to anybody if I have the time, and I'll decide for myself whether I want to do what they say. If somebody has good advice I'll take it independent of the source, and if it looks like bad advice I'll put it aside.

That's a very good approach; but in that case, what does it matter whether a voice in your head is really God or not, if you don't treat it authoritatively? To be clear, I'm not saying you should treat it authoritatively; just asking, if you're not (which I think is the right approach), then what does the source matter?

XTCamus wrote:Hidden within the weaknesses you've admitted above lay the seeds of a way to address those "emotional needs" of which I spoke. This is sometimes missing in your elaborate philosophical constructs where it feels as if all such struggles are already overcome. Back up the story a little and spend more time exploring this "weak" place (where so many of the rest of us still are), and maybe you will inspire more?

I'm not sure what exactly you're suggesting. Can you elaborate?

I certainly don't feel like all these struggles are already overcome. I struggle constantly in the face of near-hopelessness every day just trying to get by in the world. As a child I thought I would grow up to save the world somehow. Now my highest aspiration is to someday own a trailer home so as to be at least minimally independent, and eventually die without owing anybody anything; and even that is a stretch. "Middle class" is an effectively unobtainable dream to me. And I know I'm still a lot better off than a whole lot of other people.

All this high-falutin' abstract philosophy doesn't help me solve my practical problems; and neither would believing that God was gonna make it all better, either. Theists keep on praying hoping that some day God will answer their prayers if they just keep trying and prove themselves worthy or something. I just skip the middle man and keep on trying, hoping that some day something I try will work. The effect is the same either way -- continue struggling along, hoping that things get better somehow -- I just realize I don't have to project my hopes into pleas to some invisible man.

Point being, "backing up" to the view of where the problems are still in your face doesn't reveal to me any great insights that I could share with anyone else to free them of their need to believe. All I can do is sympathize and point out that I manage to keep on trying and keep on hoping without needing to believe in a God to put my hopes in. Likewise with the ethical "argument" (without God, where do morals come from?) like was had earlier in this thread; just point to the existence of atheists with principled ethical stances, or of whole countries full of atheists (Buddhists anyone?) who manage nevertheless to not decay into amoral anomie; and conversely, to the plenty of atrocities committed by "godly" people.

On the rational existential argument side of things, theism has been pushed back so hard that contemporary theistic philosophers of religion don't even bother trying to argue that God exists anymore, they don't even try to argue that God probably exists anymore, they don't even try to argue that God possibly exists anymore; the leading pro-theist arguments today are to the effect that it's not completely irrational to believe that it might be possible that God exists, even if we aren't sure that it is really possible. The atheists have pushes so far past the theist's lines that it's not even really a contest anymore, when it comes to the strict application of reason at least.

So the only really hard part of the argument now is convincing laypeople that accepting the rational argument doesn't mean being faced with a bleak hopeless amoral world. And the only way I can see to do that is to look around, see that the world is pretty bleak sometimes, hope can be hard to find, and not everybody is an upstanding paragon of virtue; but that those things are equally true of the lives of theists and atheists alike, so what does accepting the nonexistence of God really commit them to facing that they aren't facing already? Does God answer all of their prayers and fix all of their problems? Does God strike down every evildoer with lightning? No; believers and disbelievers alike still struggle to get by, and evildoers both faithful and unfaithful still get away with murder, sometimes literally. So what does hope in God and good for God's sake get you, that hope in hope itself and good for good's own sake doesn't?

That's the only argument I can see to be made.

Or, hell, just marry me, and we'll work it all out together...

Your church or mine? ;)


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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby eran_rathan » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:39 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Whoa, back up. If you don't feel confident verifying God's identity when he talks to you, how confident should you feel about obeying some other human being who claims to speak for God?

False dichotomy. The same people skeptical of your claims of personal contact with God (and of the possibility of having such themselves) are also skeptical of other people's claims of such.


Sure, but there's that third group who do believe in God and believe that somebody else must intercede for them with God.


And the fourth group, who believe in a multiplicity of gods, and a fifth, who believe that they themselves are God (or Buddha, fwiw), etc etc.

Also, to completely derail everything, polytheists don't have most of the theological issues that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have (the problem of evil, sin, etc).
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby chanakrogue » Mon Feb 06, 2012 3:40 pm UTC

KShrike wrote:... Just like "Adam and Steve", "Abel and Eve" is also immoral, probably even more immoral. ...

... But Randall definitely crossed a line. ...


KShrike, who made you the arbiter of morality in this thread? "Adam and Steve" is immoral? "Abel and Eve" is immoral?

I would say spreading rumors about how creation or genesis came about is very, very immoral. That ends up deluding a good portion of the predominant species on a little planet in one of the remote regions of a fairly standard galaxy. Gives rise to a lot of pain and strife and may end up destroying life on the planet. I would say it is the work of Satan himself, or herself. LOL ...

There, I committed many immoral statements to text. (I am not trolling, either. I swear.)
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby addams » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:10 pm UTC

eran_rathan wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Whoa, back up. If you don't feel confident verifying God's identity when he talks to you, how confident should you feel about obeying some other human being who claims to speak for God?

False dichotomy. The same people skeptical of your claims of personal contact with God (and of the possibility of having such themselves) are also skeptical of other people's claims of such.


Sure, but there's that third group who do believe in God and believe that somebody else must intercede for them with God.



And the fourth group, who believe in a multiplicity of gods, and a fifth, who believe that they themselves are God (or Buddha, fwiw), etc etc.

Also, to completely derail everything, polytheists don't have most of the theological issues that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have (the problem of evil, sin, etc).


Also;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVXV8XB-GPo

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Hey! Don't leave me out! Zen Buddhist poly-pan thesist. There must be at least one more, somewhere. Besides; One may be more than enough.
Yes. I know what it means.
As a Zen Buddhist I can not understand it all at the same time. I can only understand a little of what it is. Of that little, only a few things at one time.
Easy enough inside a Monastery. Really hard in the real world. ewww. Reality.

Poly Thesist? Yep. There are many Gods. Tons. Lots and Lots. Some humans act as Gods on Earth. Some very bad. Some not so bad. A few, Good.
Fairy Tails that draw us by our imaginations to be Wonderful. Or; So So. No one fears the Gods anymore. Tisk. Tisk. It is a shame. Many people are better people that way. I don't fear the Gods. Well........there are the ones that wear the Police Uniforms that, kind of, freak me out. They think that they are Gods. It is best to go along with that idea.

Pan Thesist. My favorite part. It is all the same stuff. It is all God. And; There is more than we are able to think about, because, we are limited by our fluid filled brains.

We can think about a great deal. We can think out into the stars. We can think down to pollen and on down to virus and even smaller. Ouch. That hurts my head. Out among the stars or out on the Ocean.

We run into real problems when we run into each other. We can be such pleasant company for one another. We can be such foul company for one another.

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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby eran_rathan » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:56 pm UTC

addams wrote:We run into real problems when we run into each other. We can be such pleasant company for one another. We can be such foul company for one another.

"The difference between Heaven and Hell is the company you keep." Addams



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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:13 pm UTC

XTCamus wrote:My reach exceeds my grasp. I need to learn to speak more plainly. (I am not really a pretentious ass, but I can do a fine impression of one. Like addams cajoled, "You have typed so many words. What are you on about?")

You didn't come off as a pretentious ass to me. God knows* I do a fine act in that role myself sometimes.

*(Hey, atheists can use religious idioms too).

It seems from your response that you understood me for the most part. It was presumptuous of me to offer advice, but it was well-intended. I have enjoyed reading your posts and philosophy for over a year.

It wasn't presumptuous either. I'm just another guy, you know? I'm honored you think so highly of me, but it would be presumptuous of me to think I'm in any kind of superior position in a discussion with people I know nothing about. For all I know you could be some well-published professor. Or a ten year old kid. Or somewhere in between, like me. Either way, even if I knew which, either of us might learn something from the other, and it'd be presumptuous of either to assume otherwise in either direction.

There's a difference sometimes between the two in that in your most honest posts you open up about these struggles and desires for transcendence, among other things, and you are very easy (for me) to relate to. Whereas, for example, your future human perfectability idea and other philosophical constructs can feel somewhat more aloof. So bringing more of this (Camus-like) element into your actual philosophy might be worth considering?

Yes, I agree. I actually intend to incorporate something like this into the end of my (extremely slowly in-progress) philosophy book. After attacking authoritarian models of both academics and politics with religion as the "villainous" archetype of both (contrasting the current scientific academy with the old church educational institutions, and comparing to it the difference between the current model of politics and what politics could become), and outlining non-authoritarian replacements for them, there is then the question of how to get people to take up the role they must take up for those non-authoritarian models to work; how to enlighten and empower, how to inspire things like curiosity and compassion. That will get into material very much like what we're discussing here, validating "religion" in a non-supernatural, non-authoritarian sense -- things beyond but not against reason, things like awe and love -- and segue from there finally into a discussion of aesthetics and poetics and their role in that picture.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby markfiend » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:33 am UTC

I hope no-one minds but I was AFK all weekend, and I may be slightly thread-necroing on here...

J Thomas: you surmised that because I characterised a "transcendent experience" as "entirely explicable"...
It sounds like your experience was one you didn't get a lot of value from, so you chose to interpret it as something meaningless. That's a legitimate choice.
This puzzles me somewhat. I don't really want to go into it in any great depth because such an experience is (almost by definition) intensely personal and private. However I will say that, despite the fact that I know the experience was brought on by chemical changes in my brain, it was an intense and moving thing. Meaningless is the last thing I would characterise it as. "Explicable" != "meaningless".

Also, I do not see what you're getting at with the "grandfather on the phone" thing.

Moving on.

Geronimo: your quote from berenddeboer.net is pretending that the text is other than it is. Elisha curses the children and then bears rip them apart... for calling God's supposed prophet a baldy. None of the stuff about "asking for a demonstration" is there. The entirety of the tale is this:
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
Your source is merely making stuff up to try to excuse the bare fact of the text.

Re: Slavery.
God makes laws to allow slavery, even though he is against it. He does this because his people are going to do it anyway, so he gives it some structure and to appease his people.

Why then do you not say "God makes laws to allow murder, even though he is against it. He does this because his people are going to do it anyway, so he gives it some structure and to appease his people." After all, if God can come flat out and condemn murder (which it is claimed that he does, "Thou shalt not kill") then why not slavery, which, I hope we can agree, is an evil as bad as murder?
Final thought, Slavery in the Hebrews time was very different from what we know today.
Citation very much needed.

AndyClaw:
And God did command the Jews to commit genocide. As creator, he has the right to do what he wants with his creation, and mercifully gives every person the freedom to choose whether to acknowledge their creator, and the people that the Jews slaughtered were incredibly wicked even by atheist standards, because by wicked I am talking child sacrifice. And by the way I don't think that children go to hell, so considering that the Bible teaches that this earth is just a passing moment in light of eternity, I don't think it is bad for God to let a child be killed. Perhaps those who suffer the most here on earth are given the greatest rewards for all of eternity. Kinda puts a different spin on things, doesnt it? Oh wait, Jesus said that.
What? Do you really mean that? "I don't think it is bad for God to let a child be killed"? You sicken me. The god you describe is not worthy of worship, it's a monster.

Pfhorrest:
We start with "what is it that makes a person a better person?", then imagine someone having maximal instances of all those qualities, and call the resulting concept of such a perfect person "God". Thus it doesn't matter whether anything exists to instantiate that concept for it to be something necessarily to be aspired to. Of course, what that concept is thus depends on what qualities you take to be virtuous. Consequently, while it may not matter whether you believe in the existence of the right God, it matters very much whether what your concept of "God" (personal perfection) is, as that reflects what you consider to be virtuous qualities, what you value, and so what you will aspire to be and encourage others to be.
Is that a deliberate reflection of Anselm's ontological argument or have you arrived at it independently?

Finally, J Thomas, if you are genuinely saying that you hear voices, seriously, get help.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby XTCamus » Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:32 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:
Geronimo: your quote from berenddeboer.net is pretending that the text is other than it is. Elisha curses the children and then bears rip them apart... for calling God's supposed prophet a baldy. None of the stuff about "asking for a demonstration" is there. The entirety of the tale is this: And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
Your source is merely making stuff up to try to excuse the bare fact of the text.
AndyClaw: And God did command the Jews to commit genocide. As creator, he has the right to do what he wants with his creation, and mercifully gives every person the freedom to choose whether to acknowledge their creator, and the people that the Jews slaughtered were incredibly wicked even by atheist standards, because by wicked I am talking child sacrifice. And by the way I don't think that children go to hell, so considering that the Bible teaches that this earth is just a passing moment in light of eternity, I don't think it is bad for God to let a child be killed. Perhaps those who suffer the most here on earth are given the greatest rewards for all of eternity. Kinda puts a different spin on things, doesnt it? Oh wait, Jesus said that.
What? Do you really mean that? "I don't think it is bad for God to let a child be killed"? You sicken me. The god you describe is not worthy of worship, it's a monster.

GOD is a MONster. GOD is a MONster.

Oh. Crap. She-bears.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Feb 07, 2012 7:38 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:Pfhorrest:
We start with "what is it that makes a person a better person?", then imagine someone having maximal instances of all those qualities, and call the resulting concept of such a perfect person "God". Thus it doesn't matter whether anything exists to instantiate that concept for it to be something necessarily to be aspired to. Of course, what that concept is thus depends on what qualities you take to be virtuous. Consequently, while it may not matter whether you believe in the existence of the right God, it matters very much whether what your concept of "God" (personal perfection) is, as that reflects what you consider to be virtuous qualities, what you value, and so what you will aspire to be and encourage others to be.
Is that a deliberate reflection of Anselm's ontological argument or have you arrived at it independently?

It's not meant to conclude anything at all like the ontological argument, though it draws from the same meta-concept of God (something having maximal perfections) that the ontological argument does, as it's addressed at the same crowd who make such arguments. But whereas the ontological argument concludes from that concept that existence is a perfection and thus by definition God must exist (which is horrendously fallacious for too many reasons to get into here), I conclude that it doesn't matter whether God exists -- since we define our concept of God as "maximally perfect", "godliness" is necessarily something to strive for, as "godliness" just fleshes out as "perfection", and the concept of God is at best a poetic proxy for the more fundamental concept of perfection.

Fleshing out what perfection is then becomes the hard part... and we can't just ask God, because by this concept of God we need to know what perfection is in order to identify who, if anyone, is God... and if we knew that, we wouldn't need to ask him.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:51 am UTC

markfiend wrote:J Thomas: you surmised that because I characterised a "transcendent experience" as "entirely explicable"...
It sounds like your experience was one you didn't get a lot of value from, so you chose to interpret it as something meaningless. That's a legitimate choice.
This puzzles me somewhat. I don't really want to go into it in any great depth because such an experience is (almost by definition) intensely personal and private. However I will say that, despite the fact that I know the experience was brought on by chemical changes in my brain, it was an intense and moving thing. Meaningless is the last thing I would characterise it as. "Explicable" != "meaningless".


It looked to me like you were trivializing it. Probably I misunderstood.

Also, I do not see what you're getting at with the "grandfather on the phone" thing.


If the result was valuable, then it doesn't really matter about verifying the source. Or you could get verification that's hard to share. ("He told me where he left the will!" "Well, but maybe you really already knew. Anyway, if he hadn't told you wouldn't you have just looked until you found it? Trivial.") And if the result was worthless, that is reason to think that the source was not God.

Finally, J Thomas, if you are genuinely saying that you hear voices, seriously, get help.


Are you telling me you don't? Perhaps you just aren't paying attention....

The problem isn't hearing voices, which is natural and normal. The problem is deciding that whatever the voices tell you must be right. That would lead to a far too random life. Doing what voices in your head tell you to, because they're voices in your head, is almost as bad as doing what scripture tells you to because it's scripture.

I've read about people who did that last. Particularly in times of stress, they'd open a Bible and read something at random, and do the first thing they read.

Like, there was a woman missionary in china, and just before the Reds got to her she opened her bible and read "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.". So she headed for the hills that very night, and stopped at daybreak, and the chinese in the hills helped her get out of the country. I've heard 4 or 5 stories like that where they asked the bible and it told them the right thing to do. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to listen to the ones who got advice which got them promptly killed.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby markfiend » Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:29 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:It's not meant to conclude anything at all like the ontological argument,

No, I got that. ;)
Pfhorrest wrote:though it draws from the same meta-concept of God (something having maximal perfections) that the ontological argument does, as it's addressed at the same crowd who make such arguments. But whereas the ontological argument concludes from that concept that existence is a perfection and thus by definition God must exist (which is horrendously fallacious for too many reasons to get into here),

Heh. Indeed. I've seen a similarly-constructed ontological argument for the existence of Santa Claus :mrgreen:
Pfhorrest wrote: I conclude that it doesn't matter whether God exists -- since we define our concept of God as "maximally perfect", "godliness" is necessarily something to strive for, as "godliness" just fleshes out as "perfection", and the concept of God is at best a poetic proxy for the more fundamental concept of perfection.

Then why not just use the word "perfection"? But you stated up-thread that you too are an atheist, so I suspect I'm violently agreeing with you here. ;)
Pfhorrest wrote:Fleshing out what perfection is then becomes the hard part... and we can't just ask God, because by this concept of God we need to know what perfection is in order to identify who, if anyone, is God... and if we knew that, we wouldn't need to ask him.

:lol:
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Kisama » Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:58 am UTC

markfiend wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote: I conclude that it doesn't matter whether God exists -- since we define our concept of God as "maximally perfect", "godliness" is necessarily something to strive for, as "godliness" just fleshes out as "perfection", and the concept of God is at best a poetic proxy for the more fundamental concept of perfection.

Then why not just use the word "perfection"? But you stated up-thread that you too are an atheist, so I suspect I'm violently agreeing with you here. ;)

Similar to the many ancient Greek gods and goddesses who were personifications of various natural forces as well as more abstract concepts (in some cases to such an extent that the concept and the god who personifies it are almost indistinct), the modern monotheistic god is a personification of the concept of perfection... I really like that analysis! Looking at it that way, I think I shall henceforth be more tolerant of Christian litanies such as "God is love" that always seemed so meaningless to me.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby eran_rathan » Wed Feb 08, 2012 1:19 pm UTC

Kisama wrote:"God is love"



My favorite response to that is, "Which one? Eros, Anteros, Aphrodite, Himeros..."
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby markfiend » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:54 pm UTC

Kisama wrote:Similar to the many ancient Greek gods and goddesses who were personifications of various natural forces as well as more abstract concepts (in some cases to such an extent that the concept and the god who personifies it are almost indistinct), the modern monotheistic god is a personification of the concept of perfection... I really like that analysis! Looking at it that way, I think I shall henceforth be more tolerant of Christian litanies such as "God is love" that always seemed so meaningless to me.

It's still pretty meaningless though. We already have a word for love... love.

Actually worse than meaningless because it provides an in for the Christian to pull the old switcheroo and claim that therefore "godless is loveless".
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby jpk » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:53 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:
Final thought, Slavery in the Hebrews time was very different from what we know today.
Citation very much needed.



It's hardly a controversial claim he's making there. I don't think there's anyone who believes that ancient slavery looked anything like either Anglo-American triangle trade slavery, or like the less known indentured slavery, or like the contemporary kind. It differed in almost every regard - the sort of work slaves were assigned to, the position of slaves in society, the duration of servitude, the treatment of slaves, and the means by which one became a slave. Not to take a side in the argument, but the "final thought" was in fact correct.

Not to pick on you particularly, because it seems you're the victim of a metastasizing meme, but saying "citation needed" whenever you want to challenge an assertion is a pretty week conversational reflex. We could all stop that, and the world would be a better place.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby markfiend » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:08 am UTC

jpk wrote:
markfiend wrote:
Final thought, Slavery in the Hebrews time was very different from what we know today.
Citation very much needed.



It's hardly a controversial claim he's making there. I don't think there's anyone who believes that ancient slavery looked anything like either Anglo-American triangle trade slavery, or like the less known indentured slavery, or like the contemporary kind. It differed in almost every regard - the sort of work slaves were assigned to, the position of slaves in society, the duration of servitude, the treatment of slaves, and the means by which one became a slave. Not to take a side in the argument, but the "final thought" was in fact correct.

OK, point taken, there are different kinds of slavery, but "very different"? Slavery is still owning people, by definition. And any alleged moral system which does not come out flatly condemning slavery of any kind has pretty severe failings in my opinion.

In fact I cannot think of anything that is (in my opinion) a worse moral wrong than slavery. Killing someone may sometimes be necessary (self defence for example) but I can imagine no circumstances in which it is moral to keep a slave.

I'm not foolish enough to claim that had there been an unambiguous "thou shalt not keep slaves" in the Bible then the triangle slave trade wouldn't have happened, but it certainly didn't help matters that pro-slavery advocates were able, quite comfortably, to use Biblical citations in support of their position.
jpk wrote:Not to pick on you particularly, because it seems you're the victim of a metastasizing meme, but saying "citation needed" whenever you want to challenge an assertion is a pretty week conversational reflex. We could all stop that, and the world would be a better place.

:lol: Fair enough.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Kisama » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:18 am UTC

markfiend wrote:
Kisama wrote:Similar to the many ancient Greek gods and goddesses who were personifications of various natural forces as well as more abstract concepts (in some cases to such an extent that the concept and the god who personifies it are almost indistinct), the modern monotheistic god is a personification of the concept of perfection... I really like that analysis! Looking at it that way, I think I shall henceforth be more tolerant of Christian litanies such as "God is love" that always seemed so meaningless to me.

It's still pretty meaningless though. We already have a word for love... love.

We already have a word for big... big. And large. And sizable. And bulky. And voluminous. And great. And massive.
We also have platonic love, romantic love, parental love, filial love, so why not a word for a mythical, deified personification of love? (Not that such a personification is backed up by the biblical account, and I'll agree that the phrase is still largely meaningless as used by religious folk. I was just happy to have discovered a more tolerable interpretation than "meaningless babble intended to generate emotional attachment to the religion")
markfiend wrote:Actually worse than meaningless because it provides an in for the Christian to pull the old switcheroo and claim that therefore "godless is loveless".
I must say that's one I haven't heard before. Certainly cowardly, amoral, arrogant, foolish atheists doomed to hellfire for not requiting the awesome love of our benevolent creator, but never atheists without the capacity for love.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby markfiend » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:49 am UTC

Kisama wrote:We already have a word for big... big. And large. And sizable. And bulky. And voluminous. And great. And massive.
We also have platonic love, romantic love, parental love, filial love, so why not a word for a mythical, deified personification of love?

Point taken.
Kisama wrote:
markfiend wrote:Actually worse than meaningless because it provides an in for the Christian to pull the old switcheroo and claim that therefore "godless is loveless".
I must say that's one I haven't heard before. Certainly cowardly, amoral, arrogant, foolish atheists doomed to hellfire for not requiting the awesome love of our benevolent creator, but never atheists without the capacity for love.

I can't find an example off-hand, but it's definitely an accusation I've heard many times. Something along the lines of "without god's love you can't experience love for another person." And there's the closely related straw-atheist who "doesn't believe in what he can't see and therefore doesn't believe in love."
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby J Thomas » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:18 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:
jpk wrote:
Final thought, Slavery in the Hebrews time was very different from what we know today.


I don't think there's anyone who believes that ancient slavery looked anything like either Anglo-American triangle trade slavery, or like the less known indentured slavery, or like the contemporary kind. It differed in almost every regard - the sort of work slaves were assigned to, the position of slaves in society, the duration of servitude, the treatment of slaves, and the means by which one became a slave. Not to take a side in the argument, but the "final thought" was in fact correct.

OK, point taken, there are different kinds of slavery, but "very different"? Slavery is still owning people, by definition. And any alleged moral system which does not come out flatly condemning slavery of any kind has pretty severe failings in my opinion.


That seems peculiar to me. Isn't the problem not slavery in itself, but that under slavery bad things can happen to people and they have no recourse? Which is also the basic problem with government.... And parents.... Not to mention armies. People say it's right for prisons, because if you go to jail you must deserve whatever happens to you.

Isn't the problem the mistreatment, more than the philosophical concepts surrounding the mistreatment?

In fact I cannot think of anything that is (in my opinion) a worse moral wrong than slavery. Killing someone may sometimes be necessary (self defence for example) but I can imagine no circumstances in which it is moral to keep a slave.


Is wage slavery so much better? When people have to scramble to get menial jobs, and scramble to keep them, and at any time they can be discarded and replaced by some other eager wage-slave.... When the master gets all the advantages of ownership without any investment in his wage-slaves.... Would that really be so much better? We have an encrustment of labor laws to mediate the problem, but if we had actual slavery we could get an encrustment of government regulations about that too.

I'm not foolish enough to claim that had there been an unambiguous "thou shalt not keep slaves" in the Bible then the triangle slave trade wouldn't have happened, but it certainly didn't help matters that pro-slavery advocates were able, quite comfortably, to use Biblical citations in support of their position.


In ancient times, slavery was the humane alternative to genocide. When there wasn't enough fertile land to go around, somebody had to lose out. Some populations got conquered for their land. Then they could be slaughtered. Or they could be put to work, and survive until the next famine.

The biblical laws about that were, well, strange. Slavery for debt. But every 50 years all the slaves should be freed. So presumably the amount of credit people would be extended should fall and fall, until on Jubilee Day people's credit rating would go way up. I've never heard of any independent source that said those rules were actually ever followed. Also there were rules that foreigners shouldn't be enslaved just for being foreigners. No evidence on that one either.

On the other hand, apart from the official rules, when the government needed stonecutters etc it grabbed all the conquered people it could find, close to 200,000 of them, and made them do unpaid labor. There are repeated claims that they didn't enslave actual israelites, only palestinians. When they took israelites for forced labor in Tyre, there was a big uproar about them selling israelites to foreigners and so there was a public claim that they would only have to leave the country for a month at a time and could then come home for 2 months, and that they would be paid in food.

Considering that these are the official records of a minor lo-tech dictatorship, and reading between the lines....
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby markfiend » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:25 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Isn't the problem not slavery in itself, but that under slavery bad things can happen to people and they have no recourse?

Not in my opinion. Claiming ownership over another human being is an affront against human dignity and self-determination second to none.
J Thomas wrote:Is wage slavery so much better? When people have to scramble to get menial jobs, and scramble to keep them, and at any time they can be discarded and replaced by some other eager wage-slave.... When the master gets all the advantages of ownership without any investment in his wage-slaves.... Would that really be so much better? We have an encrustment of labor laws to mediate the problem, but if we had actual slavery we could get an encrustment of government regulations about that too.

An employee always has the right to withdraw their labour. An employee can join a Trades Union. (And if you oppose the Trades Union movement, just look at how those labour laws came about.)

A slave has no rights at all. It's a fundamental difference.
J Thomas wrote:In ancient times, slavery was the humane alternative to genocide. When there wasn't enough fertile land to go around, somebody had to lose out. Some populations got conquered for their land. Then they could be slaughtered. Or they could be put to work, and survive until the next famine.

Actually, you've got that exactly backwards. Slavery is far more common in scenarios where there is an excess of land and few people to populate it. When there's an excess of people, paid labour is cheaper (supply and demand) but when there aren't enough people, you need to enslave them and make them come.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:22 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
markfiend wrote:Slavery is still owning people, by definition. And any alleged moral system which does not come out flatly condemning slavery of any kind has pretty severe failings in my opinion.


That seems peculiar to me. Isn't the problem not slavery in itself, but that under slavery bad things can happen to people and they have no recourse? Which is also the basic problem with government.... And parents.... Not to mention armies. People say it's right for prisons, because if you go to jail you must deserve whatever happens to you.

Isn't the problem the mistreatment, more than the philosophical concepts surrounding the mistreatment?


The ultimate problem is the mistreatment, yes, but slavery of any sort implies the condoning of some sort of mistreatment. Say we stipulated that slavery per se was ok, so long as you treated your slaves as well as anybody else. So that would imply that you can't just arbitrarily (e.g. except in defense) kill them. Or do them bodily injury. Or use their bodies without their consent, e.g. rape them. Or physically restrain them, e.g. tie them down or lock them up. Or destroy, deface, appropriate or withhold anything which they have rightly earned, i.e. steal or vandalize their property. But then, if you're treating them so well, how exactly are they slaves? What does their slavery entail compared to freedom? Maybe they are dependent on you for food and shelter and so have to do what you ask of them in order to survive... but if they can find some other arrangement they like better, to get the things they need, then so long as you're not going to use violence against them to stop them from leaving, or violence against their property to deprive them of any outside benefit, then how is that any different from free employment?
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby addams » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:07 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
markfiend wrote:Slavery is still owning people, by definition. And any alleged moral system which does not come out flatly condemning slavery of any kind has pretty severe failings in my opinion.


That seems peculiar to me. Isn't the problem not slavery in itself, but that under slavery bad things can happen to people and they have no recourse? Which is also the basic problem with government.... And parents.... Not to mention armies. People say it's right for prisons, because if you go to jail you must deserve whatever happens to you.

Isn't the problem the mistreatment, more than the philosophical concepts surrounding the mistreatment?


The ultimate problem is the mistreatment, yes, but slavery of any sort implies the condoning of some sort of mistreatment. Say we stipulated that slavery per se was ok, so long as you treated your slaves as well as anybody else. So that would imply that you can't just arbitrarily (e.g. except in defense) kill them. Or do them bodily injury. Or use their bodies without their consent, e.g. rape them. Or physically restrain them, e.g. tie them down or lock them up. Or destroy, deface, appropriate or withhold anything which they have rightly earned, i.e. steal or vandalize their property. But then, if you're treating them so well, how exactly are they slaves? What does their slavery entail compared to freedom? Maybe they are dependent on you for food and shelter and so have to do what you ask of them in order to survive... but if they can find some other arrangement they like better, to get the things they need, then so long as you're not going to use violence against them to stop them from leaving, or violence against their property to deprive them of any outside benefit, then how is that any different from free employment?

eww. I am going to stick my nose in here and get slammed.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:13 pm UTC

addams wrote:eww. I am going to stick my nose in here and get slammed.
I like being owned and owning other people. It is called Love or Friendship or something.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgtPbDzSqZo

The feeling of belonging is nice.


owned != voluntary enjoyment of another's company.

but thanks for playing.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Monika » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:45 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
markfiend wrote:Slavery is still owning people, by definition. And any alleged moral system which does not come out flatly condemning slavery of any kind has pretty severe failings in my opinion.


That seems peculiar to me. Isn't the problem not slavery in itself, but that under slavery bad things can happen to people and they have no recourse? Which is also the basic problem with government.... And parents.... Not to mention armies. People say it's right for prisons, because if you go to jail you must deserve whatever happens to you.

Isn't the problem the mistreatment, more than the philosophical concepts surrounding the mistreatment?


The ultimate problem is the mistreatment, yes, but slavery of any sort implies the condoning of some sort of mistreatment. Say we stipulated that slavery per se was ok, so long as you treated your slaves as well as anybody else. So that would imply that you can't just arbitrarily (e.g. except in defense) kill them. Or do them bodily injury. Or use their bodies without their consent, e.g. rape them. Or physically restrain them, e.g. tie them down or lock them up. Or destroy, deface, appropriate or withhold anything which they have rightly earned, i.e. steal or vandalize their property. But then, if you're treating them so well, how exactly are they slaves? What does their slavery entail compared to freedom? Maybe they are dependent on you for food and shelter and so have to do what you ask of them in order to survive... but if they can find some other arrangement they like better, to get the things they need, then so long as you're not going to use violence against them to stop them from leaving, or violence against their property to deprive them of any outside benefit, then how is that any different from free employment?

Do you only achieve things in the current world as it is with violence?
If your well-treated slaves wander away you call the police, show them your papers that prove ownership, and when the police finds them, they return them to you.
Slavery is always a problem per sé.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:50 am UTC

Monika wrote:Do you only achieve things in the current world as it is with violence?

Quite the contrary.

If your well-treated slaves wander away you call the police, show them your papers that prove ownership, and when the police finds them, they return them to you.

How will the police do so? If they are adhering to the same standards of good treatment you are, then they can't take him in by force -- that would be violent, and thus mistreatment. So what, they just ask nicely, and their requests are magically compulsory because they are police? No. All police action is necessarily violent action; at "best", merely the implied threat of violence, but if someone doesn't get the implication it becomes an explicit threat of violence, and if someone doesn't heed the threat it becomes actual violence; and if that violence is resisted, the level of violence gets escalated, up to and including lethal levels.

How does delegating your mistreatment to the police make it no longer mistreatment?

This is a HUGE problem we have with people's awareness in society today, and a major hindrance to the preservation of liberty. People advocate outlawing this or that mildly bad thing or mandating this or that nice thing, and miss the connection that in doing so, in legally prohibiting or obliging something, they are authorizing the use, in their (collective) names, of violent force against people who do or refrain from doing those things. Would you have someone shot for smoking pot? Probably not. But fine them? That's alright, it's good to discourage drug use, yeah? So you smoke pot and you get a bill in the mail, what's the big deal? Well, what if you ignore that bill? Eventually, a warrant will go out for your arrest, and the police will come find you and ask you to come along with them and sit in a concrete room with locked bars on it for a while. What if you ignore their request? They will, eventually, violently grapple and/or taze you and haul you off to that concrete room in chains. And what if you manage to defend yourself against this violence, even nonviolently? They will use more violence, up to and including the point where you get shot. So smoking pot and then doing nothing else will eventually bring violent force against you -- that's why it's called law enforcement -- and if you defend yourself against that force it will be escalated to lethal force if necessary.

That's what law is: the systemic application of violence. When is the use of violence justified? Only to prevent unjustified violence, so goes the usual ethical answer. So by that standard, what can be legitimately outlawed? Violent acts, and nothing else; for to outlaw anything else is to endorse violence against a nonviolent act or omission. (Which consequentially makes legally obligating positive action always illegitimate, because what the hell is a "violent omission", such that you could justify using violence to prevent it?)

Slavery is always a problem per sé.

That was my point. Slavery always implies mistreatment, because slavery without mistreatment is not slavery at all. Stipulating it not to be a problem per se so long as the slaves are not mistreated was the first step of a reductio ad absurdum argument; it was the position to be shown absurd.
Last edited by Pfhorrest on Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:43 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby Monika » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:20 am UTC

Ah, now I see what you were doing. Good.
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Re: 1003: "Adam and Eve"

Postby XTCamus » Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:54 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:
markfiend wrote:
jpk wrote:
Final thought, Slavery in the Hebrews time was very different from what we know today.


I don't think there's anyone who believes that ancient slavery looked anything like either Anglo-American triangle trade slavery, or like the less known indentured slavery, or like the contemporary kind. It differed in almost every regard - the sort of work slaves were assigned to, the position of slaves in society, the duration of servitude, the treatment of slaves, and the means by which one became a slave. Not to take a side in the argument, but the "final thought" was in fact correct.

OK, point taken, there are different kinds of slavery, but "very different"? Slavery is still owning people, by definition. And any alleged moral system which does not come out flatly condemning slavery of any kind has pretty severe failings in my opinion.


That seems peculiar to me. Isn't the problem not slavery in itself, but that under slavery bad things can happen to people and they have no recourse? Which is also the basic problem with government.... And parents.... Not to mention armies. People say it's right for prisons, because if you go to jail you must deserve whatever happens to you.

Isn't the problem the mistreatment, more than the philosophical concepts surrounding the mistreatment?

In fact I cannot think of anything that is (in my opinion) a worse moral wrong than slavery. Killing someone may sometimes be necessary (self defence for example) but I can imagine no circumstances in which it is moral to keep a slave.


Is wage slavery so much better? When people have to scramble to get menial jobs, and scramble to keep them, and at any time they can be discarded and replaced by some other eager wage-slave.... When the master gets all the advantages of ownership without any investment in his wage-slaves.... Would that really be so much better? We have an encrustment of labor laws to mediate the problem, but if we had actual slavery we could get an encrustment of government regulations about that too.

I'm not foolish enough to claim that had there been an unambiguous "thou shalt not keep slaves" in the Bible then the triangle slave trade wouldn't have happened, but it certainly didn't help matters that pro-slavery advocates were able, quite comfortably, to use Biblical citations in support of their position.


In ancient times, slavery was the humane alternative to genocide. When there wasn't enough fertile land to go around, somebody had to lose out. Some populations got conquered for their land. Then they could be slaughtered. Or they could be put to work, and survive until the next famine.

I'm sorry if I am late to this party, but before this post I was all set to respond to Mustapha on that other thread regarding his dismissal of the "giant richard measuring contest" supposedly going on over here. I was going to mention the excitement to be found here, from the personal soul-baring and shared philosophical angst, to the new common ground found from our various experiences of transcendence, or how even something like "God is love" was being acknowledged as something more than a meaningless utterance. But, now, after this latest abortion of logic, all I can say is:

"Excuse me, while I whip this out...."

J Thomas, forgive me, but either you haven't recovered from childhood indoctrination or else you recently caught a mind-virus and can no longer tell right from wrong either with or without the twisting of bible stories. And this despite the fact that you are apparently one of the select few who can tell with certainty which voices in your head are really from God, and which ones aren't?

Your apologistic sentiments betray the inherent problem in any claim of faith-based morality. When I hear things like:
J Thomas wrote:In ancient times, slavery was the humane alternative to genocide.

All I can think of is how negligible the effect of faith has been on stemming the tide of evil. Whether on an individual, tribal or organized level, can anyone argue that faith has actually helped the weak more than it has helped the powerful? Evil has been committed in the name of other ideas too of course, but only the faithful continue to make broad claims of being the sole source of morality, while ignoring a history of providing succor and further advantage to the oppressors. I am convinced that this "faith in faith" regardless of its track record, is just as problematic now as at any point in history.

We should continue to strive for common ground on a personal level, but we can no longer ignore this mind rot when it bares its teeth so unequivocably.
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