God, real or a fabrication of people?

Feel free to debate any issues you wish here. Warning: The topics discussed and their content may on occassion offend some.

Do you believe in God and the bible completly?

No
35
51%
Yes
20
29%
Just God but not all of the bible.
13
19%
 
Total votes : 68

Postby parnassus » Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:42 pm

That's not quite true. I was not raised to be religious, yet I am very religious now. I also know a lot of people who converted away from the faith of their childhood, or who made the same journey I made - going from no particular religion to a specific faith. And this is nothing when you consider religious believers in places like China, who are frequently tortured in sickening ways because of what they believe. The communist government has done its utmost to suppress the Falun Gong practioners and the Christian house churches, attempting to force people into 'approved' places of worship where the religious leaders are loyal to the communist government and toe the party line. People who defy that injunction are liable to be arrested without cause, wounded with electric cattle prods, and deprived of food and drink for days at a time. And this is not the only place in the world where this is happening. No one puts themselves in this kind of danger for the sake of a simplistic 'black-and-white' mentality that is supposed to bring comfort and a reward after death.

I fear death. Anyone who doesn't fear it is lying - it is natural to fear the unknown. The purpose of religion should not be to take away that fear, that awareness of the fleeting nature of our lives.

As for morality and ethics, they far from being 'black and white' areas even if you believe in absolutes. This is why there has been so much debate and scholarship in this area for millennia. There are lots of crucial questions to consider, even for absolutists - especially for absolutists. Is it possible for an act to be intrinsically evil but for the doer not to be morally culpable? There is a wealth of subtlety there, better known as sensitivity, as compassion.

It is also quite a simplistic idea to think about eternity in terms of reward and punishment. Heaven is not just somewhere that you go in exchange for a good job on earth. It is something that you become. In fact, some Eastern Orthodox theologians have suggested that Heaven and Hell may actually be the same place: if your soul is warped and untouched by love, the extreme love and light of the Divine Presence will be too much to bear. If you have given yourself over to love during your lifetime, it will be like coming home to a very close Friend. I don't necessarily agree with this, but it's an interesting idea, and one that C.S. Lewis makes good use of in the final Chronicle of Narnia, The Last Battle.
"This above all, to thine own self be true." - Polonius, Hamlet.
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Postby intowiz » Thu Aug 09, 2007 11:00 pm

ok my theory on religion, im nicking it from somewhere but hey it works. lets say theres a mythological teapot floating around the sun but we cant prove its there because our telescopes arnt powerful enough. so theres no proof of there being a teapot but people start believing in the teapot its starts to get passed on there are holy books written about the teapot religions and groups of radicals centered around the teapot and in the end the idea of the teapot has been around so long that its become law. and the proof these people come up with for the teapot being real is because it was written or because mummy and daddy told me there was a teapot.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:12 am

The teapot argument belongs to Bertrand Russell. Here is the argument in his own words:

“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”


I have tremendous respect for Russell's work as a philosopher, but the teapot argument is one area where he really lets himself down. It's a fallacy, and it's not that difficult to work out why. This is a refutation that I wrote in a discussion over on the reJesus blog some months ago:

We all know what china teapots are. We know their function and how they look. We know how they are made. We know that outer space is a very incongruous location for an object that is churned out by the dozen by Wittards of Chelsea, so committed belief in the said teapot would be very strange.

The problem with this argument is that God and celestial teapots don’t mix.

Russell wrote that he didn't 'see the point of God’, and the Christian respose to that would be that God doesn’t have a point - unlike the teapot. He just is. We may know and understand teapots - but we don’t know and understand God. (In fact, I’ve yet to read any sacred text that claims that God can be understood.) The lynchpin of Russell’s argument is the sheer ludicrousness of the thought of a teapot orbiting the sun. That ludicrousness stems from the fact that we know what teapots are and that they do not belong in between Mars and Earth. Even if you relegate the pot to a more probable home, such as the kitchen cupboard, or convert it to an asteroid, it remains a tangible object that can be assessed, clearly defined in human language, and understood with comparatively little effort on our part.

But the same can’t be said of God. If He exists, then surely He belongs everywhere. If He is infinite, then He can’t be comprehended by a finite mind (or compared to a finite teapot, for that matter). The analogy doesn’t reflect what most religious people mean when they use the word ‘God’. God is not a concrete entity and that is the first preconception that has to go.

God is not an entity that sits in a specific cupboard or whose location can be plotted precisely on a map. He does not even bear a name. The nature of God - what little we know of it - is described by these quotations from Torah, New Testament, and Qur’an:

“But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)

Interestingly, the Hebrew of those words, ‘I am who I am’ (written out in capitals in most Bibles) can also be translated as, “I will be what I will be.” Thomas Aquinas deals with this passage in his Summa, writing, “God is being itself.”

“The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.’” (Luke 17:20-21)

“Allah is nearer to you than the veins in your neck.” - Al-Qur’an. (I can’t find the precise surah.)

This is how Christians, Jews, and Muslims talk of God. This language and this conception do not appear in the teapot argument. I see nothing in that teapot that comes close to what I know about God. To borrow a popular phrase, Russell has created and dismantled a strawman.
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Postby intowiz » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:34 am

what im saying is, there is no proof for a god only a book and what your told when your young.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:22 pm

I know. And I have refuted the latter by pointing out that conversions happen in later life and are not uncommon.

It is also possible to refute the former, especially if you don't hold to the sola scriptura mentality - and especially when you consider that some of the most faithful and devout believers today wouldn't be able to read a holy text even if they were rich enough to afford one.
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Postby steve » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:51 pm

i consider bertrand russell a hero, not just because of his philosophical work but because of his social activism aswell
what religion do you belong to? i was catholic (i suppose technically i still am) but i stopped believing at about the age of 13.
the question i have to ask is why are these people in china taking these risks? because their faith is an important part of their life. like the early christians it brings them comfort to think that through the persecution they face there is somebody watching over them who will try to ensure that things turn out alright for them. they are prepared to face hardships on earth because they believe they will be rewarded at the end of their life.
i don't want to die but I don't fear death. if you believe there's only one life like I do then you believe that nothing can touch you after death. and if nothing can touch you what is there to fear?
your book was very good by the way
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Postby monkey » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:09 pm

what im saying is, there is no proof for a god only a book and what your told when your young.


my beliefs are nto based on anything so simple. i have always belived in God, when i was 3 years old i would bearly speek a word, i strugled to make any sence of what the people around me were saying to me. most of my time was spent alone in my room 'stearing of into spance' my mum called it 'in your own world'. althgouh i did coem from a christain home comunciating with me was very difficult. to explain to me a concept like santa claus woudl have ment little if nothing. i woudl not have understood. btu you are putting the idea of God into a similer catogrory. but i belived in God at that age. deeply. God was as real to me the blooks i liked to stear at. he was as real to me as the bed i slept in and the sun. God was real and it was very simple. not liek santa clause. santa clase is somthing that lots of kids are todl to belive in by there paretns so alot do. btu i was never abel to udnerstand somthign liek that. btu i belived in God. that is becaue i think God is much mroe oviusoe than santa clause or a tea pot.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:48 pm

steve wrote:i consider bertrand russell a hero, not just because of his philosophical work but because of his social activism aswell
what religion do you belong to? i was catholic (i suppose technically i still am) but i stopped believing at about the age of 13.
the question i have to ask is why are these people in china taking these risks? because their faith is an important part of their life. like the early christians it brings them comfort to think that through the persecution they face there is somebody watching over them who will try to ensure that things turn out alright for them. they are prepared to face hardships on earth because they believe they will be rewarded at the end of their life.
i don't want to die but I don't fear death. if you believe there's only one life like I do then you believe that nothing can touch you after death. and if nothing can touch you what is there to fear?
your book was very good by the way


I am a Catholic.

You misunderstand slightly about the people in China. They weren't born Christians. They chose to embrace Christianity and, more than that, they refused to keep their choice a secret. The persecution descended on them as a result of that. If they pretended to be non-believers, or even if they agreed to attend an approved church, they wouldn't have to suffer.

And their suffering is appalling. It isn't sensible to suggest that they put up with it for the sake of some cosmic reward, because at times when you are being tortured and physical and mental agony are at their highest, the Kingdom of Heaven seems very far away. It takes a lot of courage and humility to realise that it is within you even as you are hanging upside down from the ceiling, even as your genitalia is being beaten with electric batons, even as you are having red-hot needles forced under your fingernails. One of the principles of torture is to make your victim feel terribly isolated and alone. No one puts him- or herself in that kind of situation because they think that their bruises and scars will act as currency in Heaven. I've read the testimonies of torture victims such as Brother Yun, and that kind of mentality is alien to them.

It was alien to Jesus as He hung on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Faith is not about cosmic comfort blankets or positive emotional experiences. When I was living in Saudi Arabia and a spate of truck-bombings and murders were carried out by Islamist extremists, I wondered what would happen if I were every kidnapped by these people. I hoped that I would have the courage to remain true to my faith, but I doubted that. Oh, I wouldn't renounce my Christ - I have the utmost confidence in that - but I would be very scared. It certainly wouldn't be hope of a reward that would cause me to cling on to His name. It would be the fact that I love Him for the sake of loving, not for the sake of what I can 'get'. (Get is in inverted commas, as in Catholicism Heaven is not about 'getting' anything.) This is what I mean about Heaven also being something that you become.

I also believe that there is only one life. I don't want to die either, but I don't not want to die. Death is a perfectly ordinary event and it will happen to me as it happens to everyone, so I accept it in the same way that I accept breakfast in the morning. I'm afraid of the unknown, but I deal with that fear every day when I pray. Prayer is unknown as well.
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Postby steve » Fri Aug 10, 2007 6:06 pm

how do you get that window up which lets you quote from what other people have written?
when I said I believe there is only one life I meant that I believe there is no life after death. some religious believers worry if they'll ever be able to please God or not and fear punishment. they are alot more likely to fear death than I am.
perhaps you're right that the people in china are doing the work they do because they want to do something for jesus and not the other way round. there's not really much I can say in response except that despite the horrors they endure they do feel they have done good work and that is comforting for them. i'm not saying they enjoy it but they do feel they have done a courageous thing and all of us derive comfort from that. which brings me back to what I was saying about faith being a comfort.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Aug 10, 2007 6:53 pm

You have to click the 'quote' button in the top right-hand corner of the person's post. There should also be an editing panel at the top of your text box when you write.

when I said I believe there is only one life I meant that I believe there is no life after death. some religious believers worry if they'll ever be able to please God or not and fear punishment. they are alot more likely to fear death than I am.


I know that I will never be able to please God, no matter what I do, and secure in that knowledge I trust in the only holiness I have: He who lives in me. It is the same for most Christians - especially the believers in China. They don't believe that they are doing anything for Jesus at all. They are simply being themselves. When your faith goes that deep you simply couldn't be anything else.

Real faith, I think, is always about being rather than doing. This is why I'm reluctant to speak of it as 'a comfort', as that suggests that it's somehow distinct from me, in the way that my thinking-sticks (pencils that I carry around as comforters) are distinct from me. The practice of my religion is quite often a comfort - but that is not my faith.

when I said I believe there is only one life I meant that I believe there is no life after death.


I don't believe that life after death is separate from this, given that the same soul is involved, which is why I talk of one life.
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Postby steve » Fri Aug 10, 2007 8:43 pm

that's a very deep analysis. unfortunately not one I understand LOL!
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Postby eastlondonluke » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:16 pm

LOL the best version of god is in family guy lol
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Postby steve » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:24 pm

what does he do in family guy?
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Postby eastlondonluke » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:32 pm

It makes out that god is some guy who sleeps whith loads of fit girls and reads adult mags and jesus is some guy who stars in a action move.


those thing where shown in some the epersods lol
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Postby Dan » Sat Aug 11, 2007 4:29 pm

eastlondonluke wrote:It makes out that god is some guy who sleeps whith loads of fit girls and reads adult mags and jesus is some guy who stars in a action move.


those thing where shown in some the epersods lol


But those two facts are SO true!
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