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.
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?
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.