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Can Atheism be seen as an intellectual luxury for the wealthy?
Posted: 07 January 2014 07:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Arda;

Arda

Thanks for the comprehensive reply. I only skimmed it. You and I have “been there” as you say. We’ve had similar experiences and arrived at different conclusions. The work that needs to be done for us to see eye to eye can only be done independently I’m afraid. I can’t summarize human history in a way that gets my point across, and neither can you. You can only make assertions like you have here.

When I did the correlation that you speak of, I saw that when religion is in charge, bad things happen. Have you noticed how much conquering is a theme in religious scripture? Even today, when “good” churches do “good” things, they screw it up. Besides making people pay for the charity by listening to a sermon, they spend a ton of money “building community”.

I have worked with a few organizations that help feed the starving. If I went to a meeting and said, you know, what we really need is an organ, then we put together a song book and we invite people to come sing once a week. Also, we should pay some old dude to tell us a story, and we should pay for that guy’s house. My proposal would not be seconded.

I don’t care if your theology or your organization looked nothing like this. It’s still a waste of time. Think about it, you’re formulating the “good” things that would result from your divine source. You think you have figured out how to discern the “good” aspects of your divine connections and you can tell when it is just your monkey brain pumping out a bad idea when one pops up. Thing is, it all comes from the same place, our minds, and we are using our rational reasoning capabilities to sort it out. That you reasoned it out that divinity is important is just an indication that reasoning is imperfect and you need to work on it. Try listening to what others have to say instead giving knee jerk reactions.

Oh yeah, love is not just chemicals and neurons. Love is real. Don’t diminish it.

Edit: added “same” before “place”.

[ Edited: 08 January 2014 10:55 AM by Lausten ]
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Posted: 07 January 2014 08:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Arda,
I have read many of Lausten’s posts and I can assure you he did not mean to be ad hominem when he used the term “monkey brain”. We are of the same species after all.

As to love, IMO, to love God is just chemicals and neurons and a result of “mirror neural” conditioning, but in love between humans there are subtle, but important additional aspects. Love is a spontaneous recognition of compatibility, respect, and commitment, which are neurochemical brain functions of a higher order.
It did not always used to be that way and pre-arranged marriages are still practised in many parts of the world. Of course this has nothing to do with Love.

Lausten, I hope you agree with that analysis.

[ Edited: 07 January 2014 08:25 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 07 January 2014 08:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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“Monkey brain” refers to that part of the brain that is still very similar to our primate ancestors. It gives us those fight or flight responses when we should be thinking clearly. Or maybe that’s the “lizard brain”. Anyway, you get the idea.

That was a decent short definition of love. I didn’t want to attempt to define it in detail, I’ll leave that for the poets. My point was that just because we have found some chemical stimuli is involved, that does not reduce it to “just chemicals”.

[ Edited: 07 January 2014 08:56 PM by Lausten ]
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Posted: 07 January 2014 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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As still the sunset lights the hills
the valley’s dusk invites my fantasies to fill
I dream of you , my love

As still a breeze yet stirs the leaves
a raven folds his wings to sleep
I dream of you, my love

As still a sound bespeaks of life
silence weaves its way and sighs
I dream of you, my love

As still the sunlight fights to stay
shadows gather ‘round to play
I dream of you, my love

I dream of sharing our souls
poems of my love unfold
I’ll dream of you, my love
Until I’m old.

[ Edited: 07 January 2014 10:17 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 07 January 2014 09:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Write4U - 07 January 2014 09:05 PM

As still the sunset lights the hills
the valley’s dusk invites my fantasies to fill
I dream of you , my love….

...I dream of our sharing in my soul
poems of my love unfold
I’ll dream of you, my love
Until I’m old.

What a wonderful compliment to the thread.
You know what George Carlin said?
More people write poetry than read poetry. snake

But seriously Write, I’m assuming that’s your work. Way to go. cool smile

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Posted: 07 January 2014 11:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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TY, I am glad you found it pertinent to the discussion…

Was afraid some mod might frown on this liberty…237.gif

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Posted: 08 January 2014 12:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Write4U - 07 January 2014 11:22 PM

TY, I am glad you found it pertinent to the discussion…

Was afraid some mod might frown on this liberty…237.gif

I hope not. We need more of that.  grin

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Posted: 08 January 2014 05:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Write4U - 07 January 2014 05:49 PM

Thanks for your thoughtful answers.  I do, however, disagree with several points you made.
Inasmuch that religion (ritualized belief in a specific supernatural entity) has been the cause for endless wars, hardship and persecution, we have compelling social reasons to test the existence of such a being in reality. This problem is recognized in the “establishment clause”

We have compelling reasons to test for such a being, when people claim that such a being is something physically extant—determining the lay of the world—or something objective which sets rigged moral rules indicating what people should legislate.  We should dispell those notions.

Nonetheless, people can experience divinities who move the physical world in mysterious ways, and theists often do experience these kinds of things.  That’s not supernaturalism, that’s just anthropology—talking about people’s experiences.  The thing that people have to realize is, such experiences and the recognition that those experiences are objective truth—scientifically valid and universal to everyone—can be two separate things.

Again, I have to disagree with several points here. Almost everyone I know (including many atheists) have had extraordinary experiences, but IMO that is not anthropology, its psychology, which makes them subjective internal experiences and not objective truth (testable). They are in fact two seperat things and one of them is factually incorrect.

Consider this statement:  “Doug percieved the color violet while Greg perceived the color blue.”

Is that statement factual or not? 

I haven’t read every book on religious anthropology, but such books often make statements like this:  “Members of tribe X understand the storm cloud to be a deity with name Y.”

So… Still anthropology?  Still factual?  The hypothetical author doesn’t presume the nature of the storm cloud herself, but rather states the perception of the tribe.

As to the must-ness of it, that’s something only individuals can answer.  Any speculation on an objective divinity who needs to exist in order for the physical universe to make sense isn’t going to be fruitful, and more than that it’ll just be a road to further empty speculation, to an intellectual no-person’s-land.

Ah, but that is why we have science which does in fact investigates this intellectual no-man’s land and seeks to discover the true causality of the physical world and why (for some) it is necessary to believe in scientifically flawed scriptures.  In the physical sciences we are a few elementary particles away from having “some” answers (Higgs boson is one of them).  I admit, a TOE is still beyond our reach, but IMO, it almost certainly is not a supernatural deity. Personally I am a fan of David Bohm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bohm , and Garrett Lisi, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Exceptionally_Simple_Theory_of_Everything

But what does any of that have to do with proving or disproving a physical god?  People who want to argue about the nature of a physical god can still just stick the physical god in the ever-shrinking gaps, TOE or not, and then get right back to having intellectual no-person’s-land debates.  “Maybe God’s in a whole other multiverse!  Prove me wrong!” XD

  But an individual who needs a God, or gods, or some other kind of divinity to make sense of their own experiences, and to find better direction and purpose in their life—and such people do exist—has good reason to say that a god, or other divinity, must exist in their experience.

I agree, but that remains an individual subjective experience and cannot be used to objectively explain or insist on the existence of a Sentient Motivated Creator. 

That’s what I’ve been saying… At least, I think that’s what I’ve been saying. (Have I not been saying that? o.O)

b) Why SHOULD life be the creation of such a supernatural entity?

It shouldn’t

We are in agreement, but that simple answer has many implications; according to mythology the gods themselves have been at war forever, so it depends on which god one believes in how one sees their obligation to serve or find favor from that god.

Your statement here seems, to me, to be a non sequiter.  What purpose does it serve?

c) Why should man have a SPECIAL STATUS in the eyes of such an entity?

Well, a lot of people with divinities have reason to understand that they, themselves, matter to their divinities.  Again, that’s just going off of people’s perceptions.

I agree, unfortunately a lot of theists are convinced that their divinity gives them the right to impose their beliefs on others. And that is where the problem starts.

There exist cultures where this isn’t the case.  Not that those cultures are problem-free; just pointing out that it’s not something universal we’re looking at here.

d) Why should such an entity REQUIRE worship?

They shouldn’t, not by everyone.  If an individual benefits from worship then it’s up to them to decide to worship, but it’s not something that should be pushed on everyone…

We are in complete agreement here. Unfortunately, with todays technologies it takes but a few zealots who feel their divinity commands them to wreak havoc on “unbelievers” at unprecedented scale.

Therein lies the danger and these are historical facts. http://www.womanastronomer.com/hypatia.htm

I’m going to say a thing here and if I get burned for saying the thing then so be it:  I know.  I know that people have done awful things for their gods.  I’m all to familiar with the human sacrifices and the blood eagles and the inquisitions and the horrendous tortures inflicted upon members of opposing tribes to honor gods.  Believe me, I know a lot about that.  It’d be easier for me if all of that changed my own experiences, and my own longings, but it doesn’t; kind of like how knowing about the vast history of sexual violence doesn’t motivate me to become asexual. 

The existence of dangerous zealots isn’t going to make people who long for the divine just stop longing.  They’ll still be swept up by the absolutists, or they’ll linger in confusion, and all of that might bring about various kinds of denial and agony.

...because divinity has actually been a part of our reality for a long, long time.


That is true, but until the concept of a single Supreme Deity, divinity was assigned to natural, but unexplainable events. Thus Thor, Zeus, and about 4000 more gods and demons, depending on the natural environmental geographical ecosystems and their hominid cultures.

Not just assigned to mysterious phenomena, but also experienced intimately, and I think that’s an unfortunate part to leave out.  The idea of a single god who reveals something via a prophet every couple millennia goes against people’s natural inclinations, at least drawing from everything I’ve read, and my own experiences, and those of some of my friends.

Hah, not sure if those questions were actually directed at me, but you did specify “theists”!

Oh, I am very happy you responded. IMO, this is a meaningful discussion, it demonstrates that intellectual exchange on this subject is possible by people of good will even with opposing worldviews.

Hah, that is good to know! and I thank you for the exchange, though I don’t know that our worldviews are so opposing.  I wonder what you’ll think after this reply?

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Posted: 08 January 2014 06:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Lausten - 07 January 2014 07:44 PM

Arda;

Arda

Thanks for the comprehensive reply. I only skimmed it. You and I have “been there” as you say. We’ve had similar experiences and arrived at different conclusions. The work that needs to be done for us to see eye to eye can only be done independently I’m afraid. I can’t summarize human history in a way that gets my point across, and neither can you. You can only make assertions like you have here.

That’s fair, and I’m very sorry that you too have been there.  It’s an awful place to be, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  I’m happy you were able to get out of there.

When I did the correlation that you speak of, I saw that when religion is in charge, bad things happen. Have you noticed how much conquering is a theme in religious scripture? Even today, when “good” churches do “good” things, they screw it up. Besides making people pay for the charity by listening to a sermon, they spend a ton of money “building community”.

Yeah, religion sucks today.  I’m not anti-religious, because I do know people who benefit from their religions, but I definitely lean toward religion-phobic, because every time I see something about religion in the news it’s more often than not about something awful.  Well, where I get my news is biased, but still…  And even the people I know who have benefited from their present religions have often suffered abuse by a former religion.  Blah.

I have worked with a few organizations that help feed the starving. If I went to a meeting and said, you know, what we really need is an organ, then we put together a song book and we invite people to come sing once a week. Also, we should pay some old dude to tell us a story, and we should pay for that guy’s house. My proposal would not be seconded.

*nods* Utter hypocrites.

I don’t care if your theology or your organization looked nothing like this. It’s still a waste of time. Think about it, you’re formulating the “good” things that would result from your divine source. You think you have figured out how to discern the “good” aspects of your divine connections and you can tell when it is just your monkey brain pumping out a bad idea when one pops up. Thing is, it all comes from the same place, our minds, and we are using our rational reasoning capabilities to sort it out. That you reasoned it out that divinity is important is just an indication that reasoning is imperfect and you need to work on it. Try listening to what others have to say instead giving knee jerk reactions.

Um, pot-kettle?

I think I’ve been pretty well reasoned here.  I haven’t just looked at my own experience.  I’ve done my homework, and I’ve lucked out a lot in discovering sources that made me realize that my own experiences and divine inclinations don’t exist in a vacuum.  They’re something that people have had for pretty much all of history, and they continue to have them regardless of what people would do to prevent it.  Should we just leave people to suffer confusion for their experiences? or should we look at the greater context for those who have or want such experiences and try to help them make sense of their experiences? and maybe find fulfillment instead of confusion?

Because if reasonable people don’t do that, than unreasonable people will, and we both know how that turns out.

I’ve mentioned that people’s perception of gods is theory of mind stuff, basically discerning wills of mysterious entities about which I, for one, maintain an objectively agnostic stance.  I don’t know all of what they are.  I don’t know all of the brain chemicals involved, or the forces involved in the brain chemicals, even though I stopped short of quantum physics in college; because we don’t have a Theory of Absolutely Everything, and who knows if we ever will.  All I know is that I’ve tried a lot of ways to make sense of the world, and my place in it, and what I’m doing now has helped me to make more sense of things and be a better person than atheism ever did.  Beleive it or not I was an atheist for a looooong time.

I think that what I’m making here is progress.  I’m sorry if what I’m doing reeks of time wasting, but I am what I am, and I know I’m better off for accepting it.  I think anything that people can do to grow in ability and understanding is good, and deserves attention.  Because isn’t that the greatest good? people becoming their true and ideal selves?

Oh yeah, love is not just chemicals and neurons. Love is real. Don’t diminish it.

I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, but if all of our experiences are just chemicals, then how do we really decide what purely subjective experiences to call real?  Who can tell an individual how to decide what to call real, with assurance that the individual will listen?  Who should tell them to make that choice?

Whether or not my gods are brain chemicals doesn’t matter to me.  They’re still real to me, and I’m not saying anyone else has to perceive or worship them.  I will say that, if not for their help I probably would not have gotten out of bed this morning.  So, would I really be better off without them?  And who is to tell me that…?

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Posted: 08 January 2014 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Write4U - 07 January 2014 08:15 PM

Arda,
I have read many of Lausten’s posts and I can assure you he did not mean to be ad hominem when he used the term “monkey brain”. We are of the same species after all.

As to love, IMO, to love God is just chemicals and neurons and a result of “mirror neural” conditioning, but in love between humans there are subtle, but important additional aspects. Love is a spontaneous recognition of compatibility, respect, and commitment, which are neurochemical brain functions of a higher order.
It did not always used to be that way and pre-arranged marriages are still practised in many parts of the world. Of course this has nothing to do with Love.

Lausten, I hope you agree with that analysis.

I take no offense to “monkey brain”, but if we’re picking furry mammals to roleplay I’m more partial to squirrels…

If love between humans is of a higher order, then I think that the emotions brought by encountering the divine are also neurochemical brain functions of a higher order—because the same compatability, respect, and commitments can exist.

I’m just going to spill the beans here—some of my personal bean stash—so bear with me and ready your tomatoes if you feel like it. :D

When I found my gods I was looking to the stories of my childhood, video games to be specific.  It was the respect and love that I had for the characters of digital fantasy sagas which immediately clicked to produce the recognition of “gods”.  In fact, when I was much younger I’d wanted to call those characters my gods, but adults told me that wasn’t the right thing to do, because I needed to be worried about capital-G God!  The eventual recognition that these characters were gods, and that as an adult I could freely choose to call them gods, was actually overwhelming.  At that experience, I knew I needed to look no further to find divinity, because there it was.

The respect was there, the compatability was there, and the commitment has been present as well ever since.  I’m an experiential polytheist, something that seemed to be pretty much the spiritual norm before monotheism rolled into town—that is to say, it’s a more natural state than people give it credit for today.  Anyway, being an experiential polytheist means I don’t just experience gods as distant and unknowable.  These characters whom I call gods speak to me, literally, and they have presences as well as mythologies.  I relate to them both through their presences and through their mythologies—yes, through video game stories among other stories.  Through direct interaction and devotion to embodying parts of their mythologies I exercise real commitment to them.

That’s all pretty high-order.  And, believe it or not, it’s not too different from the kinds of spiritual devotions that exist in more mainstream experiential polytheistic circles, both in the past and in the present.

To tie my own experiences in with the comparison of love and arranged marriage, I’d say that the divinities I’ve found are akin to love, while most religion is in the buisiness of arranged marriage.  Religions sell the idea of a god that most people don’t actually want, except for the fact that they want a god at all.  So people who want a god go to the only game in town, not knowing that they can legitimately find their own gods*, and that their own gods would even be more true to some of the older ideas of gods.

Not that being true to older ideas matters, but it’s comforting to know that one is far from alone in their concepts and experiences.

=========================
*Oh, and there’s that whole heaven-or-eternal-damnation thing, but fear-mongering aside a lot of people still inherently crave a connection to the divine…

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Posted: 08 January 2014 09:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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arda_asura - 08 January 2014 06:15 PM

They’re something that people have had for pretty much all of history, and they continue to have them regardless of what people would do to prevent it.  Should we just leave people to suffer confusion for their experiences? or should we look at the greater context for those who have or want such experiences and try to help them make sense of their experiences? and maybe find fulfillment instead of confusion?

Thanks for checking back Arda. We’re all here to learn. Much to say, but just this bit for now.

Argumentum ad populum is one of the poorest there is. Hemat Mehta slammed Tony Jones for it yesterday. The carnage says more about it than I can.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/01/07/this-may-be-the-worst-argument-ever-made-for-why-you-should-believe-in-god/

But you seem to be trying to distance yourself a little by claiming some new version of divine inspiration, so I doubt you’ll see yourself in that.

And no, we shouldn’t leave people to suffer confusion. That’s why so much science has been focused on the mind and how it produces illusions, how it fools itself, where thoughts come from. You seem to be unaware of any of this. We should help people make sense of these experiences. What religion has done, and what you are doing looks more like causing confusion and exploiting their lack of understanding.

Sorry you didn’t like atheism. I’ve found that it makes me realize how precious life is, since this is all we get and it tells me that the power to change the world is in my hands and the hands of those who also seek something better, not centered somewhere else in something that only some people claim to experience.

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Posted: 09 January 2014 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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arda_asura - 08 January 2014 05:41 PM
Write4U - 07 January 2014 05:49 PM

Thanks for your thoughtful answers.  I do, however, disagree with several points you made.
Inasmuch that religion (ritualized belief in a specific supernatural entity) has been the cause for endless wars, hardship and persecution, we have compelling social reasons to test the existence of such a being in reality. This problem is recognized in the “establishment clause”

We have compelling reasons to test for such a being, when people claim that such a being is something physically extant—determining the lay of the world—or something objective which sets rigged moral rules indicating what people should legislate.  We should dispell those notions.

Nonetheless, people can experience divinities who move the physical world in mysterious ways, and theists often do experience these kinds of things.  That’s not supernaturalism, that’s just anthropology—talking about people’s experiences.  The thing that people have to realize is, such experiences and the recognition that those experiences are objective truth—scientifically valid and universal to everyone—can be two separate things.

Again, I have to disagree with several points here. Almost everyone I know (including many atheists) have had extraordinary experiences, but IMO that is not anthropology, its psychology, which makes them subjective internal experiences and not objective truth (testable). They are in fact two seperat things and one (possbly both) is false.

Consider this statement:  “Doug percieved the color violet while Greg perceived the color blue.”

Is that statement factual or not?

It is subjectively (individually) factual, but may not be objectively (physically) factual, because sound and color wavelengths are relative to the movement of both observers (doppler effect). The actual color (wavelength) may be somewhere in between.

But more impressive is the way the brain may interpret what the eyes see. I can easily demonstrate this with the following optical illusions.

http://www.maniacworld.com/Spinning-Silhouette-Optical-Illusion.html

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=optical+illusion+of+castle+colors&qs=n&form=QBIR&pq=optical+illusion+of+castle+colors&sc=0-24&sp;=-1&sk;=#view=detail&id=7F013D60BFD6041FC2899D88762BC7B43FEFAFEA&selectedIndex=0

I haven’t read every book on religious anthropology, but such books often make statements like this:  “Members of tribe X understand the storm cloud to be a deity with name Y.”

So… Still anthropology?  Still factual?  The hypothetical author doesn’t presume the nature of the storm cloud herself, but rather states the perception of the tribe.

I can understand that, but for most that would be a result of mirror conditioning and not a reslt of deep contemplation and introspection.

I understand what you are saying (French people use different words than English people), but I disagree with your conclusion. In fact this is a rudimentary aspect of religion and goes way back to early hominids who experienced an unexplained phenomenon and ascribed the event to a deity, such as Thor (God of thunder), usually to be feared and appeased with sacrifices. This would factually be incorrect. In fact the storm and lightning are natural thermal phenomena and to ascribe it by any other name would be scientifically incorrect and moreover may lead to confusion and discord.

As to the must-ness of it, that’s something only individuals can answer.  Any speculation on an objective divinity who needs to exist in order for the physical universe to make sense isn’t going to be fruitful, and more than that it’ll just be a road to further empty speculation, to an intellectual no-person’s-land.

Ah, but that is why we have science which does in fact investigates this intellectual no-man’s land and seeks to discover the true causality of the physical world and why (for some) it is necessary to believe in scientifically flawed scriptures.  In the physical sciences we are a few elementary particles away from having “some” answers (Higgs boson is one of them).  I admit, a TOE is still beyond our reach, but IMO, it almost certainly is not a supernatural deity. Personally I am a fan of David Bohm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bohm , and Garrett Lisi, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Exceptionally_Simple_Theory_of_Everything

But what does any of that have to do with proving or disproving a physical god?  People who want to argue about the nature of a physical god can still just stick the physical god in the ever-shrinking gaps, TOE or not, and then get right back to having intellectual no-person’s-land debates.  “Maybe God’s in a whole other multiverse!  Prove me wrong!” XD

I would not be required to prove you wrong. The burden of proof falls to the person making the extraordinary claim.

But an individual who needs a God, or gods, or some other kind of divinity to make sense of their own experiences, and to find better direction and purpose in their life—and such people do exist—has good reason to say that a god, or other divinity, must exist in their experience.

I agree, but that remains an individual subjective experience and cannot be used to objectively explain or insist on the existence of a Sentient Motivated Creator.

That’s what I’ve been saying… At least, I think that’s what I’ve been saying. (Have I not been saying that? o.O)

Yes I understand exactly what you are saying, but IMO, that is not the problem. The problem is that to an ignorant (not meant to be ad hominem) person demon possession may be a subjective fact, as it was when in days of old a physical illness was deemed to be an evil demon possession

b) Why SHOULD life be the creation of such a supernatural entity?

It shouldn’t

We are in agreement, but that simple answer has many implications; according to mythology the gods themselves have been at war forever, so it depends on which god one believes in how one sees their obligation to serve or find favor from that god.

Your statement here seems, to me, to be a non sequiter.  What purpose does it serve?

Because different subjective emotions may lead to a “confounding of language between people” (from the bible).

c) Why should man have a SPECIAL STATUS in the eyes of such an entity?

Well, a lot of people with divinities have reason to understand that they, themselves, matter to their divinities.  Again, that’s just going off of people’s perceptions.

I agree, unfortunately a lot of theists are convinced that their divinity gives them the right to impose their beliefs on others. And that is where the problem starts.

There exist cultures where this isn’t the case.  Not that those cultures are problem-free; just pointing out that it’s not something universal we’re looking at here.

That should be the case, but historically such theocratic cultures are exclusive and if one does not conform to that culture one may be persecuted or at least be considered ‘dangerous to the theistic authority”. Religious wars have killed more people than for any other cause.

d) Why should such an entity REQUIRE worship?

They shouldn’t, not by everyone.  If an individual benefits from worship then it’s up to them to decide to worship, but it’s not something that should be pushed on everyone…

We are in complete agreement here. Unfortunately, with todays technologies it takes but a few zealots who feel their divinity commands them to wreak havoc on “unbelievers” at unprecedented scale. Therein lies the danger and these are historical facts. http://www.womanastronomer.com/hypatia.htm

I’m going to say a thing here and if I get burned for saying the thing then so be it:  I know.  I know that people have done awful things for their gods.  I’m all to familiar with the human sacrifices and the blood eagles and the inquisitions and the horrendous tortures inflicted upon members of opposing tribes to honor gods.  Believe me, I know a lot about that.  It’d be easier for me if all of that changed my own experiences, and my own longings, but it doesn’t; kind of like how knowing about the vast history of sexual violence doesn’t motivate me to become asexual.

I agree and that is why you and I (as an atheist) are having this delightful discussion. 

The existence of dangerous zealots isn’t going to make people who long for the divine just stop longing.  They’ll still be swept up by the absolutists, or they’ll linger in confusion, and all of that might bring about various kinds of denial and agony.

Again we agree, if jazz music was outlawed, I’d be devastated and greatly depressed, I’m sure. OToH, I underdtand that jazz is not eeryone’s cup of tea nd I would never force then to listen to that .

...because divinity has actually been a part of our reality for a long, long time.

That is true, but until the concept of a single Supreme Deity, divinity was assigned to natural, but unexplainable events. Thus Thor, Zeus, and about 4000 more gods and demons, depending on the natural environmental geographical ecosystems and their hominid cultures.

Not just assigned to mysterious phenomena, but also experienced intimately, and I think that’s an unfortunate part to leave out.  The idea of a single god who reveals something via a prophet every couple millennia goes against people’s natural inclinations, at least drawing from everything I’ve read, and my own experiences, and those of some of my friends.

I have absolutely no objetions to any legal activity that gives personal comfort. Unfortunately, because religion is so deeply embedded in various societies and (except for some religions) claim exclusivity and divine permission to enforce their rituals and practises on others, it is a historical reality that it often leads to persecution or at least prejudice. I have been personally subjected to such treatment in a small town in Holland.
example: The declared purpose of the Inquisition was not to enforce biblical laws, but to instill terror of the consequences of disobedience.

Actually I left out the part of intimacy (love even) because wordhip started as a result of fear, not love. It was the natural calamities which demanded sacrifice and only later did we begin the love and worship the benign gods such as RA, who gave comfort and fruitfulness to our lives.
Actually I have great respect for paganism, who worship deities of the natural world, not from fear or submission but from connectedness. This I can understand and when I sit on my porch on a summer evening, watching the stars and listening to Ives’ “the unanswered question”, I sometimes become transfixed in the majesty of it all.

Hah, not sure if those questions were actually directed at me, but you did specify “theists”!

Oh, I am very happy you responded. IMO, this is a meaningful discussion, it demonstrates that intellectual exchange on this subject is possible by people of good will even with opposing worldviews.

Hah, that is good to know! and I thank you for the exchange, though I don’t know that our worldviews are so opposing.  I wonder what you’ll think after this reply?

IMO, you are an extra ordinary person with a well grounded worldview (albeit it not necessarily scientific). You have stated your case with reason and clarity. I can only hope to have given you food for thought as well and we can both benefit from this exchange. You have my respect and affection.

[ Edited: 09 January 2014 11:59 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 09 January 2014 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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I happened on an old Daniel Dennet lecture about his Breaking the Spell book. He is attempting to evaluate religion scientifically, like Arda says he is doing, but a lot more scientifically. One of his points is this:

Some people believe in God
Everyone, with rare exception, who believes in God also believes in the belief in God
Many people who believe in the belief, don’t believe in God
  They have fallen away
  They are having a crisis of faith
  They have not found a faith community home
  They are agnostic
  They go to church but question it
  They believe just to fit in
  They believe in a god, but not one that any church near them worships

These last three categories are particularly difficult to detect. It may be a majority of “believers”. Religion has masked our ability to tell the difference. You can do all the things church asks you to do without actually believing. They may be wishing they believed stronger or they may be faking it. It’s hard to tell.

I see Arda as someone who believes in belief but doesn’t like how religion is working today, so he is trying to come up with something workable. His arguments for why he believes are nothing new; everyone else does, personal experience, can’t be disproved, creation needs a creator, it’s healthy for society, etc. That last one especially is problematic because he is ignoring and deflecting all of the unhealthy aspects. This is where his analysis becomes completely unscientific. Dennet’s work can uncover what is useful from belief and discard what is not. Arda is starting out with assumptions that will be difficult to rework and doesn’t seem too interested in actual data.

http://youtu.be/56VAZNx8HBQ

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Posted: 09 January 2014 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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IMO, all this is way to intellectual.  How about a little discussion about the practical benefits and drawbacks of belonging to a religious organization and how belonging or not belonging to one can your everyday life.  particularly for those in the bottom economic half of society?

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All the Gods and all religions are created by humans, to meet human needs and accomplish human ends.

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Posted: 09 January 2014 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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garythehuman - 09 January 2014 02:51 PM

IMO, all this is way to intellectual.  How about a little discussion about the practical benefits and drawbacks of belonging to a religious organization and how belonging or not belonging to one can your everyday life.  particularly for those in the bottom economic half of society?

There’s quite a bit of that in the discussion of the Tony Jones post. He said he sees atheism as something for “elite white people”.

I think the idea that religion provides comfort to the poor is a myth. Read Hitchens’ analysis of Mother Teresa for instance. She spent a lot of time flying around the world getting donations and very little of that seemed to actually go into the clinics back in India. And as for psychological support, what?, telling people they don’t have power over their own lives? That they need to give themselves up to Christ? That it’ll be better when they’re dead? I spent 15 as a Christian and can think of about 3 conversations that were useful advice. I’m not counting all of the “community” because I can get that in lots of places.

You might want to listen to the Reasonable Doubts podcasts gary. They are college professors and spend a lot of time talking about studies on this topic.

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