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Let’s talk about God
Posted: 12 May 2011 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Hypothesis: The word, ‘god’ means a supernatural entity. I don’t believe in the supernatural so I won’t use the word ‘god.’ In fact, I refuse to use it.

Problem: The word, ‘god’ does NOT mean supernatural entity to everyone. So, if non-theists resort to ignoring the word ‘god’ then they resort to ignoring its non-theistic implications in many people’s lives. This ommission weakens the non-theist’s ability to communicate.

My thoughts:

Words are important. I respect that, but I am not as concerned personally about words as I am concepts. People often use the wrong words to express themselves and are still able to express themselves. I believe that this is the point. If someone says ‘god’ and they don’t mean supernatural creator (“Oh God that felt good!”) then we need to understand what they did mean.

Look at the number of people who insist that Einstein believed in god. That is so very frustrating to those of us who have read the man’s words (I recently read “Ideas and Opinions” on my Kindle). Einstein believed that morals are important and he felt that the church had a responsibility to teach morals - but only if they would leave out all the silly superstitious crap. He did not believe in god as theists believe in god. Many people in history have referred to ‘god’ when they clearly meant nature, or perhaps even mathematics.

I am not one who refuses to use the word ‘god’ in a discussion but I am always careful to understand what the other person(s) in the discussion mean when they say the word. It has been my experience, however, that the vast majority who use the word do indeed mean supernatural.  downer

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Posted: 12 May 2011 08:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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traveler - 12 May 2011 06:55 AM

Hypothesis: The word, ‘god’ means a supernatural entity. I don’t believe in the supernatural so I won’t use the word ‘god.’ In fact, I refuse to use it.

Problem: The word, ‘god’ does NOT mean supernatural entity to everyone. So, if non-theists resort to ignoring the word ‘god’ then they resort to ignoring its non-theistic implications in many people’s lives. This ommission weakens the non-theist’s ability to communicate.

My thoughts:

Words are important. I respect that, but I am not as concerned personally about words as I am concepts. People often use the wrong words to express themselves and are still able to express themselves. I believe that this is the point. If someone says ‘god’ and they don’t mean supernatural creator (“Oh God that felt good!”) then we need to understand what they did mean.

Look at the number of people who insist that Einstein believed in god. That is so very frustrating to those of us who have read the man’s words (I recently read “Ideas and Opinions” on my Kindle). Einstein believed that morals are important and he felt that the church had a responsibility to teach morals - but only if they would leave out all the silly superstitious crap. He did not believe in god as theists believe in god. Many people in history have referred to ‘god’ when they clearly meant nature, or perhaps even mathematics.

I am not one who refuses to use the word ‘god’ in a discussion but I am always careful to understand what the other person(s) in the discussion mean when they say the word. It has been my experience, however, that the vast majority who use the word do indeed mean supernatural.  downer

I agree. We should respond to ideas, feelings and the like, not merely react to a word. We should express our own views in our own way, not allow our adversaries to craft or limit our expressions for us. We should express our own vision, not play a constant game of defense by accepting our adversaries’ assumptions.

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Posted: 13 May 2011 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I just use the word god appropriately as it is meant to be used.  So if I’m talking about the god of Abraham, the Greek gods, the Roman gods who are orbiting out in the solar system right now… I don’t capitalize it as though it’s a proper name, or as though monotheistic (as opposed to the polytheistic interpretations) Christianity is the only meaning of the simple word.  So I do avoid the Christianized version of God, but not the ordinary common word god. 

And with Paul’s examples of the “The God of Small Things”, “Bitch goddess”, “His god is money”, aren’t these simply metaphorical uses not literal, I don’t really appreciate those metaphors anymore now that I’m Humanist.  I think that Einstein’s god was just a metaphor used by the scientist and Jew to communicate to a Christian audience, expressing that his interest in the laws of nature wasn’t a mere pass-time but a dedicated pursuit like the devotion to Abraham’s god.  Today, I don’t appreciate that metaphor any more than the other godly ones, so I don’t use that metaphor either.

[ Edited: 13 May 2011 12:34 PM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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Posted: 13 May 2011 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 13 May 2011 12:17 PM

I just use the word god appropriately as it is meant to be used.  So if I’m talking about the god of Abraham, the Greek gods, the Roman gods who are orbiting out in the solar system right now… I don’t capitalize it as though it’s a proper name, or as though monotheistic (as opposed to the polytheistic interpretations) Christianity is the only meaning of the simple word.  So I do avoid the Christianized version of God, but not the ordinary common word god. 

And with Paul’s examples of the “The God of Small Things”, “Bitch goddess”, “His god is money”, aren’t these simply metaphorical uses not literal, I don’t really appreciate those metaphors anymore now that I’m Humanist.  I think that Einstein’s god was just a metaphor used by the scientist and Jew to communicate to a Christian audience, expressing that his interest in the laws of nature wasn’t a mere pass-time but a dedicated pursuit like the devotion to Abraham’s god.  Today, I don’t appreciate that metaphor any more than the other godly ones, so I don’t use that metaphor either.

That’s your choice but if you don’t use the term in any of its metaphorical senses, you’re missing the point of what the idea has to offer.

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Posted: 14 May 2011 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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PLaClair - 12 May 2011 08:56 PM

I agree. We should respond to ideas, feelings and the like, not merely react to a word.

PLaClair - 13 May 2011 08:24 PM

That’s your choice but if you don’t use the term in any of its metaphorical senses, you’re missing the point of what the idea has to offer.

Thank you my friend Paulie, what am I missing.  smile  So you want us to look at the intent behind the words, and not get stuck on superficialities?  You want us to express our ideas freely with tact, nor tailoring it to suit the intended audience?  I agree that we should find ways to express our ideas, but when they are counter to the norms we have to use some tact and some tailoring to keep the message amiable.  Don’t you agree?

Maybe something like:  If the gods exist, they have many believers, and none of them give us any evidence, then when some people act certain that the gods do exist, then we know that those people are not being honest because… how could we be certain without evidence?

[ Edited: 14 May 2011 10:07 AM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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Posted: 15 May 2011 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 14 May 2011 10:01 AM
PLaClair - 12 May 2011 08:56 PM

I agree. We should respond to ideas, feelings and the like, not merely react to a word.

PLaClair - 13 May 2011 08:24 PM

That’s your choice but if you don’t use the term in any of its metaphorical senses, you’re missing the point of what the idea has to offer.

Thank you my friend Paulie, what am I missing.  smile  So you want us to look at the intent behind the words, and not get stuck on superficialities?  You want us to express our ideas freely with tact, nor tailoring it to suit the intended audience?  I agree that we should find ways to express our ideas, but when they are counter to the norms we have to use some tact and some tailoring to keep the message amiable.  Don’t you agree?

Maybe something like:  If the gods exist, they have many believers, and none of them give us any evidence, then when some people act certain that the gods do exist, then we know that those people are not being honest because… how could we be certain without evidence?

I agree that we should not compromise our principles and should stand firm in support of an evidence-based view of fact claims. We need not question anyone’s honesty, though there are times when we might.

My point is that “God” isn’t necessarily a fact claim. Often it represents an attitude or the expression of a desire, even among the most zealous fundamentalists. Our point is that God is a product of the human mind and in particular a product of our desires, hopes, wishes, aspirations - call them what you will. Pointing out that there isn’t a shred of evidence to support the existence of a supreme being doesn’t seem to be a very effective strategy for convincing people to abandon their theistic beliefs. This is a hard nut to crack under any circumstances but it seems to me that the best approach is not to keep focusing on God as a fact claim - that just reinforces the claim by focusing on it - but to shift the focus to the true genesis of “God,” which is the human will to believe in it. Hard as it can be to get people to look at themselves, it’s probably easier than trying to convince them that their fact claims about something that is beyond all of us are wrong. At least equally important, it takes the focus off what they want to talk about and puts it on what’s really going on. If we approach that with humility and empathy, we can probably make some progress.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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PLaClair - 15 May 2011 04:02 AM

... but to shift the focus to the true genesis of “God,” which is the human will to believe in it. Hard as it can be to get people to look at themselves, it’s probably easier than trying to convince them that their fact claims about something that is beyond all of us are wrong.

Of course, we should make friends with the moderate religious people.  Of course we should remember our religious past, how we yearned to know and understand, how we prayed, how we believed and doubted, how we joined and worshiped.  We the doubters need to be honest about the past and present, about the greater world out-there, and the smaller world inside us all.  What need?  The need to be honest is a relief, it is healthy, it frees people to think clearly and fully, and it is right.  cool smile  The doubters should give up the contrived veil of pure skepticism untainted by not even a mere moment of longing and belief in their past, and just be honest.  Approach the religious moderates honestly, and they’ll appreciate it.  Don’t worry if the purists get loud, honesty is the right thing to do.  smile

The religious extremists are a different matter.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 15 May 2011 10:01 AM
PLaClair - 15 May 2011 04:02 AM

... but to shift the focus to the true genesis of “God,” which is the human will to believe in it. Hard as it can be to get people to look at themselves, it’s probably easier than trying to convince them that their fact claims about something that is beyond all of us are wrong.

Of course, we should make friends with the moderate religious people.  Of course we should remember our religious past, how we yearned to know and understand, how we prayed, how we believed and doubted, how we joined and worshiped.  We the doubters need to be honest about the past and present, about the greater world out-there, and the smaller world inside us all.  What need?  The need to be honest is a relief, it is healthy, it frees people to think clearly and fully, and it is right.  cool smile  The doubters should give up the contrived veil of pure skepticism untainted by not even a mere moment of longing and belief in their past, and just be honest.  Approach the religious moderates honestly, and they’ll appreciate it.  Don’t worry if the purists get loud, honesty is the right thing to do.

I haven’t suggested otherwise. My point is that we have more than one point to make, and more than one way to present our case. We tend to be repetitive and unimaginative in our presentation, and when it doesn’t work we tend to blame our listeners for not getting it. Maybe they don’t, but when one approach isn’t working, try another.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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PLaClair - 15 May 2011 04:03 PM

I haven’t suggested otherwise.

Yes, we agree.  smile

PLaClair - 15 May 2011 04:03 PM

Maybe they don’t, but when one approach isn’t working, try another.

Well, what approaches do you, and don’t you want?  I think people have a variety of ideas, and are using them all.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 08:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 15 May 2011 05:22 PM
PLaClair - 15 May 2011 04:03 PM

I haven’t suggested otherwise.

Yes, we agree.  smile

PLaClair - 15 May 2011 04:03 PM

Maybe they don’t, but when one approach isn’t working, try another.

Well, what approaches do you, and don’t you want?  I think people have a variety of ideas, and are using them all.

We spend too much time and focus too much attention on the question: “Does God exist?” That results in our having the entire discussion on the other guy’s turf.

We spend too little time and focus too little attention on questions about us. “Why do people think God exists” is one of those questions but I wouldn’t put it high on our list of things to discuss. In fact, I would make it a secondary question to a great many others that address human longings, our capacity for reason and unreason, etc.

If we do not get past our obsession with the God question, people will continue to think that we are fixated on their issue. There isn’t anything about how we are handling this issue that makes sense, strategically or otherwise.

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Posted: 16 May 2011 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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PLaClair - 15 May 2011 08:10 PM

We spend too much time and focus too much attention on the question: “Does God exist?” That results in our having the entire discussion on the other guy’s turf.

We spend too little time and focus too little attention on questions about us. “Why do people think God exists” is one of those questions but I wouldn’t put it high on our list of things to discuss. In fact, I would make it a secondary question to a great many others that address human longings, our capacity for reason and unreason, etc.

If we do not get past our obsession with the God question, people will continue to think that we are fixated on their issue. There isn’t anything about how we are handling this issue that makes sense, strategically or otherwise.

Yes. Time to get more attention on atheists doing good deeds so that people associate good with the will of people rather than the will of the supernatural. That’s a tough job, but it would be easier if people shifted the “does god exist” energy toward performing good deeds. I know that there was an online charity a while back where the atheists were the largest donors. More of that sort of thing. I’ve done a lot of habitat for humanity (a christian ministry!) work. I would rather put that energy into a secular effort, but what secular group builds homes for the poor? It’s difficult to get people to gather in the name of nothing. You should be able to get people to gather in the name of humanity, but that doesn’t seem to compete psychologically with the supernatural.

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Posted: 16 May 2011 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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traveler - 16 May 2011 05:31 AM
PLaClair - 15 May 2011 08:10 PM

We spend too much time and focus too much attention on the question: “Does God exist?” That results in our having the entire discussion on the other guy’s turf.

We spend too little time and focus too little attention on questions about us. “Why do people think God exists” is one of those questions but I wouldn’t put it high on our list of things to discuss. In fact, I would make it a secondary question to a great many others that address human longings, our capacity for reason and unreason, etc.

If we do not get past our obsession with the God question, people will continue to think that we are fixated on their issue. There isn’t anything about how we are handling this issue that makes sense, strategically or otherwise.

Yes. Time to get more attention on atheists doing good deeds so that people associate good with the will of people rather than the will of the supernatural. That’s a tough job, but it would be easier if people shifted the “does god exist” energy toward performing good deeds. I know that there was an online charity a while back where the atheists were the largest donors. More of that sort of thing. I’ve done a lot of habitat for humanity (a christian ministry!) work. I would rather put that energy into a secular effort, but what secular group builds homes for the poor? It’s difficult to get people to gather in the name of nothing. You should be able to get people to gather in the name of humanity, but that doesn’t seem to compete psychologically with the supernatural.

Agreed. The irony is to the degree of absurdity. We, the secularists, spend most of our time talking about God, while the theists do the secular good work.

Bizarre and foolish, and it’s our own fault.

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Posted: 16 May 2011 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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PLaClair - 16 May 2011 05:36 AM
traveler - 16 May 2011 05:31 AM
PLaClair - 15 May 2011 08:10 PM

We spend too much time and focus too much attention on the question: “Does God exist?” That results in our having the entire discussion on the other guy’s turf.

We spend too little time and focus too little attention on questions about us. “Why do people think God exists” is one of those questions but I wouldn’t put it high on our list of things to discuss. In fact, I would make it a secondary question to a great many others that address human longings, our capacity for reason and unreason, etc.

If we do not get past our obsession with the God question, people will continue to think that we are fixated on their issue. There isn’t anything about how we are handling this issue that makes sense, strategically or otherwise.

Yes. Time to get more attention on atheists doing good deeds so that people associate good with the will of people rather than the will of the supernatural. That’s a tough job, but it would be easier if people shifted the “does god exist” energy toward performing good deeds. I know that there was an online charity a while back where the atheists were the largest donors. More of that sort of thing. I’ve done a lot of habitat for humanity (a christian ministry!) work. I would rather put that energy into a secular effort, but what secular group builds homes for the poor? It’s difficult to get people to gather in the name of nothing. You should be able to get people to gather in the name of humanity, but that doesn’t seem to compete psychologically with the supernatural.

Agreed. The irony is to the degree of absurdity. We, the secularists, spend most of our time talking about God, while the theists do the secular good work.

Bizarre and foolish, and it’s our own fault.

Well, now I’m just gonna cry.  shut eye Actually, I don’t think the picture is that bleak. I believe that atheists act silently in many ways to help the human ‘situation’. Many scientists (biologists, environmentalists, doctors, engineers…) are atheists and just go about their daily lives doing good (I hope I’m one of them). I volunteered in N.O. after Katrina, and my habitat work was not because of anything supernatural - it was for the families who needed a decent place to live. I drive a Fiesta most of the time, except when my wife and I want to go topless in our Miata (Our Jeep is only for deep snow in Buffalo). We get out to canvas for the politicians we hope will drive our government with reason, not prayer. We have had dinner with Annabel Park and attended the Rally to Restore Sanity - the point here being that there are many people who I believe are secularists who work to make the world a better place. Indeed, I believe it is the secularists who will save the world from madness.

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Posted: 16 May 2011 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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traveler - 16 May 2011 05:54 AM
PLaClair - 16 May 2011 05:36 AM
traveler - 16 May 2011 05:31 AM
PLaClair - 15 May 2011 08:10 PM

We spend too much time and focus too much attention on the question: “Does God exist?” That results in our having the entire discussion on the other guy’s turf.

We spend too little time and focus too little attention on questions about us. “Why do people think God exists” is one of those questions but I wouldn’t put it high on our list of things to discuss. In fact, I would make it a secondary question to a great many others that address human longings, our capacity for reason and unreason, etc.

If we do not get past our obsession with the God question, people will continue to think that we are fixated on their issue. There isn’t anything about how we are handling this issue that makes sense, strategically or otherwise.

Yes. Time to get more attention on atheists doing good deeds so that people associate good with the will of people rather than the will of the supernatural. That’s a tough job, but it would be easier if people shifted the “does god exist” energy toward performing good deeds. I know that there was an online charity a while back where the atheists were the largest donors. More of that sort of thing. I’ve done a lot of habitat for humanity (a christian ministry!) work. I would rather put that energy into a secular effort, but what secular group builds homes for the poor? It’s difficult to get people to gather in the name of nothing. You should be able to get people to gather in the name of humanity, but that doesn’t seem to compete psychologically with the supernatural.

Agreed. The irony is to the degree of absurdity. We, the secularists, spend most of our time talking about God, while the theists do the secular good work.

Bizarre and foolish, and it’s our own fault.

Well, now I’m just gonna cry.  shut eye Actually, I don’t think the picture is that bleak. I believe that atheists act silently in many ways to help the human ‘situation’. Many scientists (biologists, environmentalists, doctors, engineers…) are atheists and just go about their daily lives doing good (I hope I’m one of them). I volunteered in N.O. after Katrina, and my habitat work was not because of anything supernatural - it was for the families who needed a decent place to live. I drive a Fiesta most of the time, except when my wife and I want to go topless in our Miata (Our Jeep is only for deep snow in Buffalo). We get out to canvas for the politicians we hope will drive our government with reason, not prayer. We have had dinner with Annabel Park and attended the Rally to Restore Sanity - the point here being that there are many people who I believe are secularists who work to make the world a better place. Indeed, I believe it is the secularists who will save the world from madness.

You’re right, except that when we identify ourselves as secularists we spend most of our time talking about God. As Ollie said to Stan, “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

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Posted: 16 May 2011 07:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Now you can see the talk, but be careful.  You can’t see the volunteer works, and so don’t know what works are being done.  smile  Why not try to take a lead and gather some Humanists in your area to help?  I have seen that the CFI trying to raise relief money for Japan.

[ Edited: 16 May 2011 07:28 PM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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