Who Believes in God--and Why?

Many say their own faith is based in reason, but others' beliefs are grounded in emotion.

guess-who

12/11/2008 07:59:59 PM

I don't believe in god, but I think god exists. Personally, I oppose religion, but that doesn't mean I can't develop my own system of ideas, and I am very careful not to use the term "belief". I am male, I'm 18, of a middle class education and a relatively small family. I wasn't brought up to be religious, I didn't even think about god and death until I was a teenager. Regardless of the nature of people's belief, why is it seen as a bad thing? All the cynics out there should stop and think about what faith gives to people - happiness, reason, direction, the list goes on. I for one pity the faithless, and call it pointless or delusional if you must, but whether or not god exists he/she influenced more lives for the better than anything I could possibly think of. By all means, question your faith if you like, but let others be.

mediagiant

02/24/2007 04:53:22 PM

Lots of people claim to know God. In fact, lots of people claim to know God in ways that contradict what the other people who claim to know God say. That's why faith isn't a good reason for believing anything. It actually sickens me that faith is considered such a virtue in our culture. If anything, faith is a copout in the search for real answers. Intelligent design, at its heart, relies on this same sort of copout faith -- attributing anything we don't know yet to the divine. So, I must ask, if we find answers to some of these questions raised by people like Michael Behe and William Dembski, will that cause you NOT to have faith? Although it's certainly possible (it happened to me), I'm fairly unusual.

TAWNY14

01/19/2007 10:30:07 AM

There is a difference in believing in God and knowing God. It's a soul matter. And here again are people tryng to analyze the original Creator. Jesus said "Rely not on your own understanding, but turn to me." He knew the fickleness of the human heart and the overwhelming urge to understand what cannot be seen. This is what faith is all about.

jasciu

12/18/2006 02:03:05 AM

Belief in god(s) is a consequence of the anxiety of death with insignificance all human beings must resolve to face life's challenges. Since we are only the animals that are aware of our impending death, we must construct personal, social and religious fictions that assuage this anxiety and provide meaning and strength. Belief in God is simply the highest level of arbitrary symbolic meanings that people must attach to find the self esteem to take life head on. Since symbolic meanings cannot be differentiated from reality in minds they have as much weight and effect on human action as physical strength, prowess and skill. The invention of cultural institutions that protect from us from idea of death (or insignificance and worthlessness) is a necessary outcome of this man's evolution. Therefore, in this sense, all of man's 'secular' accomplishments are religious in that they promise "immortality" or death with significance.

steppen0410e

10/17/2006 09:55:44 PM

jacknky: I know what you mean when you speak of personal ambiguity in respect to what position to adopt in regard to the god(s) of men. My own professed atheism largely consists of an intellectual rejection of the traditional arguments and evidences for deities, on the grounds that they are insufficient in light of modern knowledge and thinking. An added problem is that, the term 'God' is loaded with the accumulated baggage of millenniums. If it only meant something along the lines of a symbolic word for the mystery of life and the spiritual values associated with that sense of mystery, I could probably go along with it.

jacknky

10/17/2006 10:17:12 AM

steppen, "So there is probably more personal integrity in acknowledging that one doesn't know than attempting to mask one's ignorance with belief." I agree. I used to vacillate between calling myself an atheist and an agnostic. Agnostic feels more true now. The most honest answer I can give to the god(s) questions is "I don't know." I also feel that there is an inherent dishonesty in a belief so strong that it pretends to know what can't be known.

steppen0410e

10/16/2006 10:34:54 PM

And just to clarify, the 'belief(s)' I am referring to in my penultimate post are beliefs in historical and metaphysical propositions without sufficient evidence.

steppen0410e

10/16/2006 09:51:50 PM

The question, "Does a belief do harm or good?" is an important and good one. For me, any belief that prevents one from understanding the world and/or one's own nature is a harmful one. Even at best, a belief is the acknowledgement that one doesn't know. So there is probably more personal integrity in acknowledging that one doesn't know than attempting to mask one's ignorance with belief.

jacknky

10/16/2006 09:28:02 AM

amen, Steppen. Personally, I like to keep it simple, having a simple mind. It seems to me if the human mind can conceive it someone somewhere will believe it. Also, I've noticed that since belief has nothing to do with reason they are intrinsically equal. One belief is as good as another. To judge beliefs we have to bring them back into the realm of this world: Does a belief do harm or good?

steppen0410e

10/14/2006 04:47:29 PM

I actually question that there are any "proofs and evidences of God" at all, let alone that there is any substance to the claim to a hyperbolic "countless". And one often finds that the so-called 'spiritual educators' down through the ages are at odds with one another at the very core of their beliefs about a supposed God. And while the credulous believer might be inclined to classify those who are of a more skeptical frame of mind as having "weak" spirits, there is little doubt that, considering the utter lack of evidence for any God, the idea of skepticism is immeasurably healtheir and closer to the truth than the notions proposed by any religion, regardless of human fallibility in both camps.

Hello_honourable_friends

10/14/2006 01:12:02 AM

I believe in One True God, exalted be His Glory, that has sent beings who are at once material, human and spiritual educators to many cultures at many times, and that these beings, though outwardly or physically are human, inwardly are our strongest connection with, and provide the clearest proof and testimony of God's existence. Nontheless, I also do feel that there are countless proofs and evidences of God, but that these only need elucidating for those who's indwelling spirit is weak, for when man feels the indwelling spirit, at once many proofs and evidences of God's existence come to mind. Anyone with an enquiring mind may feel quite free to consider perusing Some Answered Questions by Abdul-Baha if they wish. Warmest love and regards, hhf :-)

Henry7

10/13/2006 11:21:54 AM

As an Ex Christian, our children and we have no need to adhere to any God, Fairie or Sprite.

steppen0410e

10/12/2006 07:27:53 PM

Sorry, jacknky, didn't mean to imply or give the impression that you thought the human situation was hopeless. I know from reading your posts that you have, as I do myself, a positive view of man's basic nature.

jacknky

10/12/2006 10:13:08 AM

steppen, "But we love our children, and there is also the ten thousand little kindnesses that occur every day." Please read my remarks again. I wasn't trying to say it's hopeless. I was trying to say that we are endowed with basic wisdom and compassion, that love comes from within, not from a particular god. The fact that kindness extends across all cultures seems to bear this out.

steppen0410e

10/10/2006 09:58:54 PM

I would tend to agree with you, jacknky, that, as a species, perhaps we haven't been doing so well, and that much of this could be put down to religious beliefs that have kept us at each others throats for millenniums. In our tenure on this planet, we have accumulated some dangerous evolutionary baggage, propensities for aggression, subservience to leaders, and fear of outsiders, etc. But we love our children, and there is also the ten thousand little kindnesses that occur every day. And while these little kindnesses are not considered newsworthy, they should not be forgotten and represent - along with our great soaring intellect - that the human species is our only hope for continued survival.

jacknky

10/10/2006 10:43:58 AM

Yahdisciple, "I don't have that kind of egotism, man (myself included)is not that adept at running his own life, none less the world." I'll agree that what we've been doing hasn't been working too well. Perhaps it's time for a change- more reason and fewer gods. In my humble opinion, each of us already has all the wisdom and compassion we'll ever need. We just don't know how to access it. Perhaps if we didn't look so much for "salvation" from outside and learned to access our inherent goodness the world would be a better place. Peace...

steppen0410e

10/08/2006 10:49:16 PM

I also think many believers are indulging in projection when they make such utterances as "man is not adept at running his own life". I know a good many people who are 'running' their lives very well, and they are doing so compassionately. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they fare in the running of their lives as well, if not better, than most believers of my acquaintance, and that without the carrot and stick philosophy of any god-belief.

steppen0410e

10/08/2006 10:05:30 PM

(continued) But at the risk of repeating myself, God used to be the best explanation we'd got, and now we have vastly better ones. Actually, God is no longer an explanation for anything, but has become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. And perhaps of all the Gods', the biblical one - especially in his Old Testament expression - would be the last one I would seek for moral guidance. Any God who would order the destruction of children is certainly not a God worthy of worship.

steppen0410e

10/08/2006 09:47:30 PM

Firstly, Yahdisciple, I don't put man on the "top rung of the ladder". There is nothing within evolutionary theory that even suggests that man holds any special or privileged place or position in the universe, and anyone who says otherwise had better be ready to provide the evidence for such a claim. Secondly, I have never said anywhere that "I don't need God to lead me in my life". All I have been saying is that, despite what people believe, there is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that there even exists such an entity that could serve as such a guide. But I'm certainly open to looking at any evidence that a believer might advance.

Yahdisciple

10/08/2006 02:36:13 PM

steppen Who has the bigger ego here? One who puts Yahweh as the head of his life, family and church or the one who says, like you, "I don't need a God to lead me in my life". I put Yahweh as the top run of the ladder where you would put man. I don't have that kind of egotism, man (myself included)is not that adept at running his own life, none less the world.

steppen0410e

10/06/2006 03:49:18 PM

A beautiful post, jacknky! Perhaps the most inspiring call to the Buddha's via negativa.

jacknky

10/06/2006 10:04:52 AM

steppen and JD70, Excellent points. For me, spirituality is not about "spirits" and supernatural beliefs. To me, spirituality deals with the spirit of Man and deals primarily with love, compassion and wisdom. One doesn't need supernatural beings to access our basic wisdom and compassion but rather learn to see clearly and reduce ignorance. The Buddha made the point that the nature of the gods is basically an unanswerable question. He implied it is wasted effort to cling to unfounded beliefs, attempting to make the world agree with tightly held beliefs. "Be a light unto yourself", he said. Rather than attempt to see the unseeable it is better for me to attempt to see what can be seen more clearly, as a baby without beliefs. THIS world is full of awe, both wonderful and scary. It is the warrior who is willing to see the world and himself as they really are without seeking alternative worlds and beings in our minds. Peace...

steppen0410e

10/06/2006 06:01:28 AM

I think you make an important point, jd70, when you state that the conception of God 'becomes something of a distraction to realizing what the term really points to'. I would go a little further and suggest that it becomes a positive barrier to true spirituality by burdening the mind with extraneous and insupportable beliefs. When people get exposed to real spirituality, the need for all the medieval stuff simply fades away.

steppen0410e

10/05/2006 08:06:08 PM

Mostly probability, Yahdisciple. I cannot prove absolutely that Santa doesn't exist either, but the probability is rather slim that he does. The "main difference", Yahdisciple, is that believers make extravagant claims about God that they cannot backup with an iota of evidence, and the burden of proof is upon those making extraordinary claims to come up with the extraordinary evidence. But it must be quite an ego boost to believe that God is on one's "side".

Yahdisciple

10/05/2006 07:21:37 PM

steppen, you have said yourself you or anyone else cannot disprove the existance of God 100%. That means that your hypothosis is based upon conjecture, not pure hard facts. How does your arguement differ from those who say God exists. The main difference i see between the two arguements is that we have God on our side and you have the speculations of some men on the other. Therefore your points about no proof for the existance of God are mute.

jd70

10/05/2006 06:54:42 PM

Good posts steppen and jacknky. Once God becomes something that is a conception of the human mind, it becomes a distraction to realizing what the term realy points to.

jacknky

10/05/2006 04:07:10 PM

Yahdisciple, "What has this to do with the faith of believers being any less true than the faith of non-believers." Some say very strongly there is no god and, I suppose, these are the non-believers you speak of. But many of us are more agnostic. To me, the most honest statement I can make about the existence of God is "I don't know.". But we are all agnostic about something. There are and have been literally thousands of versions of gods. You must be atheist/agnostic about the vast majority of gods there are and have been. Using your logic, you must believe in the Tooth Fairy or Thor. You can't prove they don't exist.

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 08:03:23 PM

And I would ask you again, Yahdisciple, considering that all religions are based on faith, including even opposing one's: If faith can lead to false beliefs, what value can there be in it?

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 07:59:40 PM

I'm not saying anything of the sort, Yahdisciple. There is simply no evidence for your, or anybody else's, God. And I don't accept at all that the concept is outside of the realm of scientific investigation. If the God hypothesis is simply a vague statement, it can be provisionally rejected as silly and unnecessary. If, on the contrary, it is meant as a relatively precise statement about the physical world, then we can investigate God's existence with the well-established hypothetical-deductive method. How do we do that? By enumerating the supposed attributes of such a God and treating them as testable hypotheses. This has been done, and it would be understatement to say that the biblical God has been found wanting.

Yahdisciple

10/04/2006 07:27:16 PM

And faith in scientists beliefs or supposed scientifical fact does not hold water above those who put God ahead of man. If you are saying you or they are above God, please come out and say that.

Yahdisciple

10/04/2006 07:25:12 PM

It is one thing to say 'I believe', say, that water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen because two centuries of physical experiments attest to this This is not faith or belief but known fact which requires little or no faith. What has this to do with the faith of believers being any less true than the faith of non-believers. Neither one can beyond a shadow of a doubt in the others mind prove the existance or non-existance of God. You just have to leave it up to the individual, for it is between the person and their God, not for scientists or others to decide. Since you cannot unequivically prove that God does not exist, your points absolutely denying God are more faith on your part than truth. Also just by saying there is no such thing as God, would mean you would have to know everything that could be possibly known. Even i don't know that much.

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 07:19:38 PM

I'm more inclined to think that belief in supernatural entities arose among our species as a result of the reasons I identify below in my hypothesis, and for the fact that we humans have a deep-seated psychological need for both security and self-preservation. We probably invented God to meet the first need and the concept of life-after-death to meet the second. The thing is, the best that can be found in religion can be had elsewhere, and that without claiming to know things we manifestly do not know. Couple this with the fact that none of the religions 'holy books' are reliable - filled with contradictions, inconsistencies, and patently failed prophecies - and accompanied also by histories trailing rivers of blood, and we can soon see how caustic such insupportable beliefs can be.

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 07:08:05 PM

(continued) ...the more we know, the less we attribute to supernatural causes. Any scientist faced with such a remarkably consistent trend would not hesitate much to extrapolate just a bit and declare God likely non-existent. And, yes I would agree, 'faith' is a 'key to belief', but only a certain kind of faith and a certain kind of belief. It is one thing to say 'I believe', say, that water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen because two centuries of physical experiments attest to this, but it is altogether another kind of thing to say 'I believe' in historical and metaphysical propositions that are unfalsifiable and lack even a scintilla of evidence. To have faith in the latter example is to witness credulity reach light speed into the absurd.

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 07:00:32 PM

Yahdisciple: How do you know that the universe is empty, let alone that the Earth is in the middle of it? Just how exactly life arose on this planet is not yet known for sure (there are some very interesting hypotheses), there is no doubt whatsoever among the majority of scientists that life has evolved. The evidence for this fact is overwhelming, and corroborated from any number of independent scientific disciplines. And, of course, I cannot 'prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God does not exist' anymore than you could disprove the hypothesis that there is a china teapot in orbit around the planet Jupiter. But there is a very clear inverse relationship between the amount of human knowledge and the credit (or blame) we are willing to give God for direct intervention in the universe...

Yahdisciple

10/04/2006 06:39:05 PM

In other words steppen-prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God does not exist.

Yahdisciple

10/04/2006 06:38:11 PM

Also would you agree that if there appears to be no scientific or solid evidence of God, as you state, Faith alone is the key to belief. I would contend to have that much faith would take an act of God to affect millions of people, from all walks of life, scientific, political, intellectual, service orientated, and even those who once denounced God, why do all these people believe. I would also believe it takes a greater leap of faith to completely deny God than it does to believe. Why is your "faith system" more true than ours.

Yahdisciple

10/04/2006 06:28:10 PM

steppen - just a question, how would you explain how a human has evolved from some primortal sludge in the middle of an empty universe. Give us all a science lesson if you would.

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 05:33:16 PM

(continued) The total lack of any objective or empirical evidence supporting the belief in God is irrelevent.

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 05:32:05 PM

I have something of a hypothesis myself about this business of God, jacknky. The universal human experience of helplessness and dependibility during the long years of infancy and childhood (longer than any other animal) inevitably produces a sense of worthlessness and inferiority for which the personal ego demands compensation. The human's most desperate need is to feel good about about himself. The more intense the inferiority complex, the more necessary is extreme absolutism. Religious certainty is the most universal and effective means of boosting the individual ego. To know with absolute certainty that an omnipotent, omniscient supreme Being approves of and takes a personal interest in one's self is the most profound ego compliment that can be imagined.

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 05:11:38 PM

It's an hypothesis rather than a theory in the strictest sense, jacknky, but I could go along with it. Look at all those gods' of the Hindu's! A god of anger, a god of greed, a god of compassion, etc. As a swami explained it to me on one occasion, all these gods' are not believed in literally (except, of course, by the ignorant and the literally minded) but are representative of inner human elements projected out so as to be able to deal with them. The personified gods' are projected representations of our own inner states. I can't remember who said it, but I believe it is somewhat true that, religion and all its content, holds up a mirror to man's own dysfunction.

jacknky

10/04/2006 04:19:45 PM

steppen, I have another theory. We create our gods and those creations are tools we use to access ourselves. In other words, when we are speaking, praying or listening to God we are truly listening to ourselves. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. What do you think about my theory?

steppen0410e

10/04/2006 06:05:24 AM

Peaceblossom: So-called subjective experience, or subjective evidence, of God is a maze without a clue, and it is clear that very little can be made of such personal claims. People are constantly subject to the most extreme personal convictions, which they can in no way rationalise, and strength of conviction never gurantees truth. When one person experiences the deepest personal conviction of one notion, say, that Jesus is the way, another person can experience with conviction just as deep an entirely incompatible notion, say, that Allah is the way. A more reasonable light in which to regard such occurrences is to suppose that there are people who are disposed to experience extreme conviction and that the substance of the conviction, Jesus, Allah, or some other, is entirely incidental.

steppen0410e

10/03/2006 08:08:32 PM

By the way, Yahdisciple, I have no beliefs about God. I neither believe nor disbelieve in a God. There is no more evidence for such an entity than there is for the tooth fairy or the existence of leprechauns, so I just don't bother with the concept of all. In fact, I think the very notion is a barrier to real spirituality and has only served to keep people at each other's throats for millenniums.

steppen0410e

10/03/2006 08:03:32 PM

Yes, Peaceblossom, all real transformations are inward one's and do not require or necessitate that one embrace either insupportable beliefs or the pretence to knowledge one doesn't really have. Yahdisciple: Faith, by its very invocation, is a transparent admission that religious claims cannot stand on their own two feet. All religions are based on faith. Even opposing religions are based on faith. If faith can lead to false beliefs, what value can there be in it?

Yahdisciple

10/03/2006 05:12:28 PM

steppen - Your number one anti-God sentiment would be your disbelief, and because of this disbelief your intolerance toward anything Christian. Slamming people because they disagree with you about the existance of God only shows disdane toward Christians, and doesn't help your campaign against Christianity.

Peaseblossom

10/03/2006 05:11:42 PM

Yahdisciple, Thank you for your encouragement =) I agree that it is a matter of faith at a point...where many people are okay with subjective evidence and many are not. Then it also depends on how one defines God and what is reality...x_x aaaaaah

Peaseblossom

10/03/2006 05:07:54 PM

Then again, perhaps I do not need to have a concept of God, and developing some sort of philosophy or spirituality is ultimately key (?).

Yahdisciple

10/03/2006 05:04:59 PM

Once again, faith is exactly that, a belief in something that to many may not be proven by scientific fact, but to those who have it, we know why we believe. It doesn't help to question another persons faith as much as it is better to be true to your own. We who believe, will not be waivered by those who don't, but will pray to Almighty God we don't stumble in ours.

Peaseblossom

10/03/2006 05:03:00 PM

Steppen0410e, That is kind of where I am too...I wasn't raised religiously but was introduced a lot to Xianity. I really needed a sense of purpose, so it took me a while to begin to reevaluate my automatic belief in God. And I found that all evidence of God is inherently subjective, so it all depends...What do I accept as solid evidence? As you said, prayer can really have a deep effect on people, as well as meditation and a God-guided mindset, and I see how it can transform ppl from the inside. And I guess b/c I would like to experience that sort of transformation, I feel I need to form for myself a concept of God, however abstract, if that makes sense...Maybe it is as Jacknky said...But, what do you think? =)

steppen0410e

10/03/2006 03:23:58 PM

Yes, jacknky & eastcostlady. I also think that the commonplaces of language conceal the vacuity and strangeness of many of our beliefs. For instance, look at yes50's post. Substitute Zeus, Ahura Mazda, Apollo, or Wodin for 'God' to get a sense of the irrationality that underlies such beliefs.

yes50

10/03/2006 01:51:57 PM

I believe in God because He is real, and he created this planet and us. I believe because the bible says ther is a God. And I know there is for sure, I have prayed and prayers come true And I have seen the power and might of God. And I also believe in his son Jesus whom is my lord and savior

jacknky

10/03/2006 11:10:40 AM

steppen, "Why is it that we deliberate more thoroughly when buying a second-hand car than we do when embracing the notion of God?" Excellent point. Religion is the only area of human existence where reason is not encouraged or valued. Reason, if it contraticts faith, is not encouraged. I have a theory why. To the extent that we can BELIEVE there is a father in the sky watching over us, to that extent we can live our lives as though we'll live forever. For this purpose, it doesn't really matter whether there really IS a father in the sky. To the extent we can truly believe it then our lives can be transformed.

eastcoastlady

10/03/2006 08:11:23 AM

steppen, Nothing at all wrong with questioning; in fact, that, IMHO, is one our our strengths. We practically demand debate and discussion. It's affirming.

steppen0410e

10/02/2006 05:32:59 PM

What 'anti-God' sentiments have been expressed here, Yahdisciple? I wonder why a God would endow humans with reason - which can only operate on the basis of sensory evidence and rational proof - and then demand that he abandon the very thing that sets him apart from the rest of animal creation when it comes to perhaps the most inportant inquiry he will ever embark on? I'm certain that any one of us on being informed that our wife or husband was cheating on us, or that a certain brand of yoghurt could make you invisible, would demand to see the evidence before believing it. Why is it that we deliberate more thoroughly when buying a second-hand car than we do when embracing the notion of God? Is there something wrong with questioning the notion?

Yahdisciple

10/02/2006 05:22:00 PM

peaceblossom- I too, have not always been a person of great faith, but with the right people around me, teaching me how the word of God is to be a part of my every thought, every action and every judgement. In other words, as we become more and more led by the Holy Spirit living within us, we will show our fruits through our daily lives. Keep praying and asking for guidance and most assurredly, God will guide you. Don't be swayed by the anti-God sentiments here and elsewhere for when God is with us , noone can stand against us. Yahweh Bless.

steppen0410e

10/02/2006 04:43:27 PM

And prayer is another one of those things that, while, perhaps, having positive affects for the utterer (just as the muttering of a mantra may have for a Buddhist or a Hindu), is one of those religious indulgences that comes within the purview of science. It can be tested, and has been, and has been found wanting.

steppen0410e

10/02/2006 04:28:51 PM

Like you, Peaceblossom, I started out, especially in my youth, believing in God. It was in my later teens that I came to the realisation that my belief simply assumed the existence of a God. That realization launched me on a quest to to see what kind of evidence, if any, there was for the assumption. Unfortunately, I discovered there wasn't the tiniest morsel. While I haven't entirely abandoned the notion that there might be some kind of intelligence behind the cosmos, I don't hold out much hope for the traditional God of the religions. And I am one of those who Yahdisciple refers to as wanting to keep the notion of God 'out of our public life', and I have some very good reasons for believing so.

Peaseblossom

10/02/2006 04:08:30 PM

Chidrake, It is wonderful how you can sense guidance by God and that your belief & prayer have helped you grow so much. I feel like selfless prayer is really key, but I am kind of having trouble with it.

Peaseblossom

10/02/2006 04:03:38 PM

I really connected to the response of the Catholic nurse, as I feel like there are some people I meet and/or come to know who just have a very apparent sense of purpose and life. A few of those people aren't religious, but all of them are so extraordinary...and I think they show us the potential we have as human beings. In the beginning, I believed in God because I needed an assurance, and I hoped God would guide me to a purpose. For a long time still, as the computer scientist wrote, I am kind of hoping for "direct contact with God." Right now, I don't really have belief, but I am trying to see God in every-day life. What God is exactly I am still unsure of, but He/She/It is surely something beautiful, whom millions of people have experienced and I hope to too.

Yahdisciple

10/02/2006 02:31:15 PM

Chidrake- There is no finer thing in life than the work of Christ in the hearts of beleivers. Although there are many who would like to see God out of our public life, i know that through the heartfelt faith and prayers of Yahweh's elect, strength will be given to his children to further establish His Kingdom here on earth. Keep praying and God bless.

chidrake

10/02/2006 11:37:09 AM

Belief in God is not a question of why?When i start my day with an unselfish heart felt prayer God guides my thoughts and actions. my belief in God and my growth in prayer show why i blieve in God!My feelings and emotions express my heart more in thought and deed. If your not growing your not believing!The words of God i cherish and try to understand and share their meanings with everyone.God has helped and improved my life through prayer and i try to share some of these important insights.

jacknky

10/02/2006 10:57:28 AM

Tysson, "Moreover, you consistently ignore how extant Traditions do change." Thank you for your examples. I think we'll just have to agree to disagree and our differences are more semantic than anything else. I didn't mean to imply that traditions do not change. Everything in the world changes. My point was that elements within an organization that adhere to tradition tend to resist change not embrace change. As you point out, organizations that are more vibrant tend to embrace change and it seems obvious to me they are less bound by tradition. And more importantly, when "tradition" is given as the primary reason for not changing and there are other very good reasons for changing then I think the obstinancy of tradition is more naked. I hesitate to make such a big deal about this because it seems so simple and obvious to me.

steppen0410e

10/01/2006 07:41:45 PM

Unlike you, Henrietta22, I have not drawn the assumption of God, and considering the utter lack of any objective or empirical evidence for such an entity, I am unlikely to ever do so. The problem I have with such protestations as 'God has never let me down' is that I have heard them from believers of every religious stripe, even those with utterly differing and even opposing conceptions of God. In light of this fact, it seems to me all the believer is doing is simply interpreting their life experience by dint of their belief whereby they always remain central to the attention of their God. If things go right, God is blessing them. If things go wrong, God is either punishing them, testing them, teaching them a lesson, etc. I think one can divine in this something to do with the attraction or motivatng factor in a god-belief.

Henrietta22

10/01/2006 06:51:21 PM

Any belief can become fanatical, whether it is of religion or otherwise. So are you saying your search is to prove there is no God, so then people won't use their belief in God to hurt and kill people? Where I keep searching for new understandings of God's word, and world, you turn away from that path, and look for definite, concrete proof. I believe in a healthy skepticism in trusting humans, and that has proved itself many times in my life. God doesn't let me down.

steppen0410e

10/01/2006 05:58:09 PM

It may not be important for you to know where we humans, or life generally, began Henrietta22, but some of us are more motivated to know the truth of the origins of life than to leave it to the assumptions of faith or pseudoscience, and knowing our origins is vital to understanding who and what we are. And in a world of competing ideas, some of which will be true while others false, skepticism is absolutely necessary. And it is not a matter of 'not abiding the thought of God' (I quite like the notion in some of its manifestations), but whether the claims about God are true or not, especially considering how parlous many of the views of God have been to mankind throughout history. There are many whose 'healthy choice in one God', while making them happy, has had dire consequences for many others, especially those who thought that they were doing their God a favor by wiping out or subjugating unbelievers.

Henrietta22

10/01/2006 05:30:52 PM

Why is it important to know where we as humans began? Everything in this world started by something; be it God or Evolution, or both, here we are! The Bible has been direction for humans, and comfort. If some can't abide the thought of a God who cares for all of us, that is their choice. Healthy skepticism isn't absolutely necessary, when it comes to faith. Our healthy choice is belief in one God. We'll just trust God, do good, and be happy.

steppen0410e

10/01/2006 05:11:39 PM

(continued) As for life after death, again, I see no compelling evidence so far that would persuade me that we survive personal thermodynamic equilibrium. And while I have no belief in a life after death, that doesn't prevent me one little bit from living a full and meaningful life. In fact, the probability that death means extinction should give life for those of us who get to experience it a finer edge. It's a rare opportunity, so why waste it preoccupying ourselves with the probable vain hope of getting more of it in some imaginary hereafter?

steppen0410e

10/01/2006 05:01:47 PM

I understand, Yahdisciple, that such beliefs as those you espouse give many people comfort and consolation, but that they do so is no indication of the veracity of such beliefs. And considering that we live in a world where so many different, and even opposed, religious beliefs are proffered, a healthy skepticism is absolutely necessary. But even the most opposed religious beliefs have one singular element in common: the complete lack of any compelling evidence to back them up. Religious belief and faith is merely someone's assertion, without evidence, that something is true.

Yahdisciple

10/01/2006 03:45:45 PM

I understand why you can't understand steppen, for your belief system is not of God, and i beleive the only way to truth is through the one who created truth, for without Father Yahweh's divine revelations in our lives, we are left to skepticism and a pure lack of knowledge. Yahweh didn't put us here as second to anyone, for His children receive blessings higher than the angels. Please be more specific about these far better explanations, and also how do you derive meaning without an afterlife. It seems to me that if this is all there is, why care about the future, why love anyone or anything if it is all for nothing, just to end as if we were never here. Think how important it is that we are all working for the same purpose, Yahweh's purpose. That is true harmony and peace if you ask me.

steppen0410e

09/30/2006 10:20:30 PM

I disagree, Yahdisciple. I can think of any number of sound reasons not to believe in God, the least of which is that the notion has no explanatory value. It may have once had such a value, but now we have far better explanations. And just as much peace and strength can come from recognizing that we are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. We just need to grow up and trust ourselves, which may require that we let go of the security blanket provided by belief in a great sky-dad.

Yahdisciple

09/30/2006 02:18:23 PM

I think the best question is "Why don't you believe in God." Myself i can't think of a good reason not to believe and know. It is in this knowing that true peace and strength come from. Surely this world will not provide you with either.

Týsson

09/29/2006 08:42:47 AM

"Those who believe in "God" generally believe that it created the universe." This is true for the monotheistic faiths that have adopted the Biblical genesis myth. However, I'm not sure how widespread such a belief is outside of the Abrahamic faiths. The mythology of most indigenous folk religions that I can think of hold that the gods were themselves a product of creation. This has rather profound theological implications that, interestingly, do not generally conflict (much) with more "scientific" cosmologies.

ElGabilon

09/29/2006 12:40:17 AM

Those who believe in "God" generally believe that it created the universe. It is wrong headed thinking. The universe is God, and one may say that it is a perfect perpetual motion entity. It has always existed, and is always changing form over time going from an "egg" into a full blown universe and then returning to its "egg" status again to become a full blown universe. It returns to "egg" status, not by contracting,rather through black holes which eventually will consume everthing returning it to its "egg" status. It consists of both matter and mind and any life form it creates regardless of its size can be likened to data reporting entity which keeps the universe informed of its own status.

Týsson

09/28/2006 11:15:37 PM

"this traditional rule versus that rule." And I think this is part of where your arguments fail. Namely, you see Tradition as being this rule or that rule when, in fact, it's far more than a list of rules. Moreover, you consistently ignore how extant Traditions do change. The same Traditions that once used the Bible to justify slavery later used that same text to lead abolition movements across the country. The same Traditions that once condemned inter-racial marriages now consecrate them. Even as we speak, the Anglican Tradition is changing its stances on homosexual leadership in the church. Time and time again in this debate you have confused Tradition with orthodoxy. The two terms are NOT interchangeable as these examples amply demonstrate.

Henrietta22

09/28/2006 06:53:47 PM

Quote: Willsea, "those that see nothing because they rely only on their limited senses, close themselves off to experience, which is key". As usual you see life in depth. Adela Rogers St. Johns wrote a book called "Tell No Man", a spirtual fiction. It was quite different from the earlier books she wrote that were fictional, and non-fiction. It was because of what experiences had taught her, I presume. I could write a book of actual experiences throughout my life, maybe they would help someone, but most likely they would be discounted. I use them with people I know if I sense they would be receptive to something in their lives. It's like A.R.St.Johns said, "Tell No Man".

Týsson

09/28/2006 06:43:15 PM

That said, jacknky, your question is not entirely fair. My principle argument has been that Tradition is not intrinsically static, not that Tradition are principle agents of change. Nevertheless, I think we can find examples. For instance, Eastern medicine's advancements in herbalism and accupuncture/accupressure were in large measure necessitated by Buddhist proscriptions against cutting open bodies. Jewish law, as I understand it, is constantly being reinterpreted with each new generation in a process that is mandated by Jewish Tradition. Vatican II was quite a change in Catholic Tradition that could only have come from within Catholicism itself. I'm sure that I could list others, but these were the ones that came most immediately to mind. There are other things I'd like to comment on, but I'm off to dinner. Hopefully, I will have time to write more later. :-)

Týsson

09/28/2006 06:28:05 PM

"Could you please cite a specific example when a religous tradition that was firmly entrenched, Judaism will do, changed BECAUSE OF the tradition, not in spite of it." Well, you won't like my first answer, but here it: all of them! Again, a Tradition is an organic thing that, when healthy, constantly seeks to grow. Because of the heterodox/orthodox dialectic I mentioned earlier, change tends to be slower than is satisfying to most modernists. Nevertheless, all Traditions have changed; none are static and the impulse toward change is an integral part of Tradition. I would argue that only unhealthy Traditions, typically those that are in decline, often collapsing under the weight of their own ritual complexity and a concomitant orthodoxy based on literalism, that exhibit the qualities you are ascribing to Tradition.

Týsson

09/28/2006 06:14:17 PM

"So well stated; thank you!" Thank you, ECL! My ex-wife is Jewish and, through her, I gained an appreciation for Judaism. I only learned the basics, though, so it is gratifying to know that I have not spoken out of turn. :-)

steppen0410e

09/28/2006 04:31:20 PM

Henry7 is right, there are more reasons to reject the notion of God - at least in the traditional conception - than to believe. God was once the best explanation we had, but now we have vastly better one's. Actually, God is no longer an explanation for anything.

Henry7

09/28/2006 04:19:42 PM

As an Ex Christian... there are far more reasons not to believe in god, god(s), gnomes, fairies, pixies, etc...

jacknky

09/28/2006 11:08:20 AM

(continued) What tends to become "traditional" are the trappings around the truths. No women as priests. no homosexuals as ministers. this traditional rule versus that rule. What I write is anecdotal, not logical, historical or scientific, I admit. That's why I ask you for something specific. HOW does the Jewish tradition not fight change and remains flexible to new realities and knowledge? Peace...

jacknky

09/28/2006 11:08:02 AM

Tysson, I appreciate your forcing me to question my assumptions. I think "tradition" is one of the many tools human societies use. I think many human tools are inherently neutral. They can be used or mis-used. Police and armies perhaps are such neutral societal tools. My perception is that "tradition" is not a neutral tool. I think tradition is often used to justify basic human intertia. I think the assumptions of tradition tend to not get re-examined enough because the assumptions are long standing. I think change is inherent in existence and tradition tends to be slow to respond to reality. Yes, there can be wisdom found within traditions. In my mind, that wisdom is universal and does not require tradition. "Love one another", for example, is not a "tradition" to me. It is basic human wisdom found universally. We don't hear it enough. We don't practice it enough. But it's wisdom is universal and not bound by tradition.

jacknky

09/28/2006 10:53:05 AM

Tysson, OK. I don't know enough about Jewish tradition to remark. While you are eloquent I am a bit frustrated by your generalities. Could you please cite a specific example when a religous tradition that was firmly entrenched, Judaism will do, changed BECAUSE OF the tradition, not in spite of it. I have tried to give you a few examples of what I perceive as religous tradition opposing needed change primarily because the change wasn't traditional. You criticized me for generalizing too much from a few examples but I find examples illuminative.

eastcoastlady

09/28/2006 09:59:41 AM

tysson, your post of 9/27/2006 10:39:42 PM -- So well stated; thank you!

Týsson

09/27/2006 10:39:41 PM

Within any established Tradition, there is almost always an interplay between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, each attenuating the influence of the other. Both, however, are integral and authentic to the Tradition, which transcends them both. Within this understanding of Tradition, what you are really objecting to is orthodoxy. Perhaps the most familiar example of this interplay is Judaism. Each Jewish generation and, indeed, each individual Jew, must come to terms with an incredibly rich Tradition and make it relevant in the contemporary world. Obviously, different ends of the spectrum, say Orthodox vs. Reform, have constructed for themselves different expressions of Judaism. All, however, are part of the same Tradition, something I happen to find quite marvelous and beautiful.

Týsson

09/27/2006 10:32:20 PM

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the dictionary definitions you cite describe the surface of Tradition without capturing much of the substance. The "continuing pattern" part of the second definition begins to touch on what I have been talking about, but it, too falls far short. A true Tradition is a holistic, integrative cultural phenomenon, generally with a spiritual and/or magical component, that informs virtually every aspect of an individual's life within the context of a community. It contains the wisdom of that community's collective experience. As such, it is ever expansive, constantly challenging an individual to new levels of personal growth and understanding. (continued)

jacknky

09/27/2006 08:32:46 AM

I looked up "tradition" in the dictionary. These are the definitions of tradition that I relate to: "a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting." "a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices." "a customary or characteristic method or manner"

jacknky

09/27/2006 08:28:09 AM

(continued) I wonder how much our differences in personality has to do with our difference in opinion. But you are correct. I'm sure I spoke too broadly. Peace...

jacknky

09/27/2006 08:27:53 AM

Tysson, "Clearly, your initial objection to Tradition was stated too broadly and, I might add, in a way that reflects your own prejudice." Absolutely. My statements reflect my own experience, not an interpretation of history or other cultures. I have yet to personally see an instance when "tradition", as I understand it, was used as an impetus for change. When change has happened, in my experience, it is usually due to something else. In my mind, "tradition" by definition in concerned with preserving the past. Your examples of traditional change seem to be historical and I think history is generally viewed through a prism. Having lived through the civil rights movement I have heard these time reinterpreted by those who weren't there and could see the inaccuracies. So, I trust my experience more and am trying to learn to see more clearly through meditation.

jacknky

09/27/2006 08:13:43 AM

Tysson, " believe you have lost sight of the original context in which this discussion germinated." Yes, our discussion has helped me clarify my thoughts. I see now that I was speaking from my own experiences with Christian religion in the US and had spoken too broadly. Thank you.

jacknky

09/27/2006 08:11:57 AM

Tysson, "I must say, too, that I find it interesting that one who advocates so consistently for rationality would object that his arguments should be immune from logical scrutiny." I find that logic works only to the extent that we can agree on the assumptions. Anything (almost) can be logical based on the assumptions. I ATTEMPT to base my rationality more on experience and seeing clearly rather than mental machinations. Of course, I fall short miserably but that is my goal. If you need a clearer explanation read some Buddhist writings.

Týsson

09/26/2006 09:59:01 PM

If, as you now clarify, you are only speaking about a few Traditions that are recalcitrant on a handful of issues you find important then, again, your argument is not against Tradition, but against the positions taken by some Traditions on some issues. Clearly, your initial objection to Tradition was stated too broadly and, I might add, in a way that reflects your own prejudice.

Týsson

09/26/2006 09:58:45 PM

"Are those examples relevent to what is going on in the United States today? I don't think so and I don't believe you have made that case." I believe you have lost sight of the original context in which this discussion germinated. Namely, you made a blanket condemnation of Tradition, a critique that, in context, extended to all Tradition and that is founded on the premise that all Tradition is rigid and stagnant. As has been amply demonstrated now, not all Traditions (historical or contemporary) are rigid and stagnant. Moreover, the only examples you have cited come from a very limited sampling of Traditions. (continued)

Týsson

09/26/2006 09:46:12 PM

"The larger the religion, in MY experience, the more likely it is that tradition will be used to stifle change." Let's take this outside of the United States for a moment. Is Buddhist Tradition being used to stifle change? This is an honest question. Though I used to study Taoism, I am not as familiar with the various Buddhist traditions in their varied cultural contexts. Nevertheless, my scan of history suggests that Buddhist cultures have been quite pliable and innovative. If this is so, have Buddhist practitioners in the United States shown a trend toward greater rigidity?

Týsson

09/26/2006 09:40:32 PM

"I never claimed to be using logic. I claimed to be speaking from experience." Isn't extending limited negative experience with a subset of a group to the group as a whole the source of most prejudice? I must say, too, that I find it interesting that one who advocates so consistently for rationality would object that his arguments should be immune from logical scrutiny.

jacknky

09/26/2006 03:29:35 PM

Tysson, I never claimed to be using logic. I claimed to be speaking from experience. MY experience in the United States dealing primarily with a modern mono-theistic religion is that tradition is used to stifle change. The larger the religion, in MY experience, the more likely it is that tradition will be used to stifle change. Are there examples in history where that is not the case? Possibly, and you have made a case for that. Are those examples relevent to what is going on in the United States today? I don't think so and I don't believe you have made that case.

Týsson

09/26/2006 03:23:33 PM

"Okaay... I believe my original point still stands. Religious tradition is used today to discriminate against women and homosexuals." And my rebuttal still stands. It seems, then, that we have reached an impasse. The "critique" you repeatedly offer is not a critique of Tradition at all, but rather of a single religious precept that you happen to disagree with. That's fine as far as it goes, but it is an extremely limited view of Tradition that makes your "critique" ring rather hollow. A religious tradition is being used to discriminate against homosexuals and religion and therefore, according to your argument, all religious Traditions must therefore be similarly rigid and automatically suspect. Aside from being a logical fallacy (pars pro toto), your argument suffers from a lack of historical and global perspective.

jacknky

09/26/2006 02:55:46 PM

Tysson, "What I find interesting is not that "new information" is leading to societal change, but rather that the native impulse of the Germanic people has not been supressed despite centuries of the imposition of a foreign paradigm." Okaay... I believe my original point still stands. Religious tradition is used today to discriminate against women and homosexuals.

jacknky

09/26/2006 02:53:28 PM

Tysson, "Tradition is not inherently static, immutable or unchangeable." I agree. I belong to a UU Fellowship and it appears that group has a tradition of openness and flexibility. My point is that "tradition" as practiced by most (probably monotheistic) religions today is used to resist change. I cited what I consider an important example, the use of tradition to justify discrimination.

Týsson

09/26/2006 01:13:37 PM

"The tradition that women and homosexuals could not be in church leadership positions was born in different times." They were also against Traditional Germanic views (at least with regard to women--Germanic Traditions regarding homosexuality are a bit more ambiguous). What I find interesting is not that "new information" is leading to societal change, but rather that the native impulse of the Germanic people has not been supressed despite centuries of the imposition of a foreign paradigm.

Týsson

09/26/2006 01:07:03 PM

"To me it is immutable and difficult to change. If it weeded ou unintended consequences long ago then it must have been before it hardened into a tradition. So, does change stop after a tradition is born?" Your argument strikes me as highly tautological. We've been through this before, but it bears repeating, Tradition is not inherently static, immutable or unchangeable. In fact, it can be quite innovative within its authentic context. What Tradition provides, then, is a sort of collective memory of what works, what is beneficial or what is healthy for a given people. Those innovations that prove beneficial are absorbed into the Tradition while those that don't pan out tend to get rejected. The answer, then, to your question is an unequivocal no!

jacknky

09/26/2006 12:51:50 PM

Tysson, "A true Tradition, then, often anticipates many unintended consequences simply by virtue of the fact that it weeded them out long ago." We obvioulsy have different mental images of a tradition. To me it is immutable and difficult to change. If it weeded ou unintended consequences long ago then it must have been before it hardened into a tradition. So, does change stop after a tradition is born? The tradition that women and homosexuals could not be in church leadership positions was born in different times. Now new information is making us more aware of what these groups have to offer. What is impeding the ending of their discrimination is church tradition. That's what I'm talking about.

jacknky

09/26/2006 12:47:15 PM

Tysson, "That's confusing given that you were speaking about Greek and Roman societies, in the past tense no less. :-/" Sorry. I thought you started it and I'm too lazy to go back and look.

helpnett.net

09/26/2006 12:33:18 PM

What modern religious organization in the US are you thinking of where women are not only equal but exalted? Despite misinformed and misrepresented public opinion to the contrary, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the "Mormons") women are both equal and honored. Though this is somewhat of a play upon your words, we are in fact living for eternal exaltation, WITH our men and our families. See http://www.mormon.org or http://lds.org for accurate info. This statement was just made in the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper: "LDS women are 'not second-class citizens in the kingdom of God' but integral to God's plan and are obligated to get all the education they can in order to become self-reliant and enlarge their lives. President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told women during the annual General Relief Society meeting Saturday that they are God's 'divine creation. Men hold the priesthood. Yours is a different role, different but equally important.' "

Týsson

09/26/2006 12:27:30 PM

"I would rather adapt and change an unexpected consequence than see it incorporated into the stone of tradition." By contrast, I tend to trust the collective wisdom of my ancestors over the latest social fashions of the day. I also recognize that much of modernity seems focused on bigger, more expensive and, usually, technological solutions to what are, increasingly, the unintended consequences of the previous round of bigger, more expensive and, usually, technological solutions to the previous round of... I suppose I've just lost faith that the trend can sustain itself indefinitely.

Týsson

09/26/2006 12:27:01 PM

"To me, the existence of unintended consequences for actions is more an argument for flexibilty and change than for tradition." I disagree. An authentic Tradition, particularly a folk Tradition, grows organically over the course of many, many generations. As such, Tradition undergoes evolutionary pressures that tend to weed out unproductive or unhealthy ideas, choices, etc. A true Tradition, then, often anticipates many unintended consequences simply by virtue of the fact that it weeded them out long ago.

eastcoastlady

09/26/2006 12:21:52 PM

seraphim, All I can do is offer condolences and sympathy for your terrible loss and hope the future brings you happier times.

Týsson

09/26/2006 12:17:42 PM

"Okkaayy... But I was talking about this society and culture." That's confusing given that you were speaking about Greek and Roman societies, in the past tense no less. :-/

Týsson

09/26/2006 12:14:57 PM

"perhaps there is some confusion in that you seem to be speaking more universally and I am speaking more anecdotally from my personal experience today in the United States." Perhaps that is another source of confusion. Another stems from a difference the way we are using these terms. However that may be, to brand all Tradition as static, oppressive of women, etc. based on your limited experiences with American conservatives of a very select few religions seems rather unfair.

Týsson

09/26/2006 12:11:20 PM

"I suppose that's true. I'm just curious though. What modern religious organization in the US are you thinking of where women are not only equal but exalted?" I'm not sure your question is directly related to my statement inasmuch as I was talking about Tradition in more of a holistically cultural and global context. If we confine ourselves to the modern United States, then we would probably have to look to various matrilineal American Indian cultures that are still extant, to one degree or another. Some Neopagan movements also exalt the feminine, though I generally don't consider them to be a Tradition in the sense I've been using the term. While Asatru, my religion, does not place women on an exalted status, per se, it certainly places them on an equal footing with men. This is perfectly consonate with Traditional Germanic views and practices prior to Christianization.

jacknky

09/26/2006 11:56:58 AM

seraphim. I feel someone should respond to your very personal posts but I'm probably not the one to do it as I'm not a Christian. But thank you.

jacknky

09/26/2006 11:55:29 AM

Tysson, "But even here, we can see how change away from a Tradition can have unexpected consequences." To me, the existence of unintended consequences for actions is more an argument for flexibilty and change than for tradition. I would rather adapt and change an unexpected consequence than see it incorporated into the stone of tradition.

jacknky

09/26/2006 11:52:13 AM

Tysson, "In the world of the Greeks and Romans, religion, state, science, love, war, architecture, etc. were one. It is notable, for instance, that most ancient societies did not even have a word for "religion." Okkaayy... But I was talking about this society and culture.

jacknky

09/26/2006 11:44:45 AM

Tysson, perhaps there is some confusion in that you seem to be speaking more universally and I am speaking more anecdotally from my personal experience today in the United States.

jacknky

09/26/2006 10:57:00 AM

Tysson, "Some traditional religions discriminate. Many others, however, place women on equal or even exalted status within society." I suppose that's true. I'm just curious though. What modern religious organization in the US are you thinking of where women are not only equal but exalted?

seraphim1278

09/26/2006 10:47:04 AM

So I just realized I really can not type or spell today...apologies everyone! As for children with medical conditions, I believe things happen in our lives as a testimony to others about God's love and desire for a relationship with him. I've had 3 pregnancies and with all of them have suffered a horrible condition called pre-eclampsia, or toxemia. With the 2nd pregnancy, we had a stillborn son after I had to be induced at 22 wks gestation. I also suffered a liver rupture during the labor. I had a choice. I could use this as an opportunity to strengthen my faith in God (the God of my personal beliefs, of course) or I could become angry and bitter. I choose to believe my son's death had meaning, that my suffering had meaning, and that it was an opportunity for me and others to grow in our relationship with God. That is the essence of faith. You can't touch it, smell it, see it, taste it, hear it...you consciously choose to accept it as true.

seraphim1278

09/26/2006 10:41:14 AM

I believe in God primarily because I have been directly affected by a relationship with him and by conversations with him where he speaks to my heart (No, not a booming voice from the sky, saying "THIS IS GOD!") I have also experienced things in my life that would have no meaning without my faith that there is a God who loves me, ME PERSONALLY. God does want a relationship with everyone. However, I believe He is only obligated to call our hearts once; after that it is His divine mercy and love for us which makes it possible for us to accept a relationship with him. God has given us free will. He wants us to believe and love him because we WANT to believe and love him.

Týsson

09/26/2006 07:51:54 AM

Nightlad! Your sarcasm almost caused me to panic there for a moment. I was beginning to think you had undergone a very rapid, and drastic, theological shift. :-) Be that as it may, I think your sarcasm here is a bit off base. From my reading of Namchuck, he was not placing Christianity above Pagan belief in his observation. Rather, I imagine that he was placing Un-belief above Belief or, in terms probably more in keeping with his general thesis, rationality above irrationality. Such a view may be worthy of a bit of sarcasm, but it requires a different kind of sarcasm than you have employed. *tongue planted firmly in cheek*

NightLad

09/26/2006 05:04:35 AM

Interesting to note that the ancient Greeks began to lay their Olympian myths to rest several hundred years before the birth of Christ. Amen to that! Personally I don’t see how such an educated people, steeped in philosophy and literature, could believe such ridiculous myths - like a God who slept with a mortal women to produce a half-god son. (Hercules) And what about those dumb Sumerians who actually believed that the whole world was flooded as a divine punishment? (Epic of Gilgamesh) Oh, and get this, a God, Ea, warned one special guy to build a boat to save his family and a sample of animals, then the guy sent out birds to check for land, after which the boat came to rest on a mountain when the waters subsided. I mean, talk about unrealistic! Thank god Christianity came along to put such idiocy to rest once and for all.

Týsson

09/26/2006 12:09:39 AM

"Myth, perhaps, as the penultimate truth." Heh! I would take it further. I would say that myth is our only truth. Everything else is just model building or propaganda. ;-)

namchuck

09/25/2006 09:02:16 PM

Agreed, Tysson. Myth, perhaps, as the penultimate truth.

Týsson

09/25/2006 07:52:32 PM

"Interesting to note that the ancient Greeks began to lay their Olympian myths to rest several hundred years before the birth of Christ." That depends entirely on what you mean by "lay to rest." Euhemerism was certainly on the rise, but that doesn't mean that myth didn't continue to play an important role. Then, too, orthopraxy was far more important to most Greek societies (and to Roman societies for that matter) than orthodoxy.

namchuck

09/25/2006 06:28:27 PM

Interesting to note that the ancient Greeks began to lay their Olympian myths to rest several hundred years before the birth of Christ.

Týsson

09/25/2006 05:58:41 PM

"For example, in our society it is against the law to discriminate against women. Yet religions, being tradition bound, still discriminate. That's the kind of thing I'm speaking about." Well, let's be clear. Some traditional religions discriminate. Many others, however, place women on equal or even exalted status within society. But even here, we can see how change away from a Tradition can have unexpected consequences. As Heinlein observed, "Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick." ;-)

Týsson

09/25/2006 05:49:54 PM

"My experience has been that societies change faster than tradition-bound religions." This will likely be the demise of Tradition as we know it. But then, it could be argued that culture itself is not up to the dizzying pace of change in the modern world. We are simply "progressing" faster than the social structures humans evolved with can cope. "Simply because Roman and Greek societies were changing doesn't mean the traditional religions were leading the way." This reflects a modern perspective that has little meaning in the ancient world. It is only in relatively recent times that religion was separated from other aspects of life. In the world of the Greeks and Romans, religion, state, science, love, war, architecture, etc. were one. It is notable, for instance, that most ancient societies did not even have a word for "religion."

Týsson

09/25/2006 05:37:05 PM

"Can you give me an example of "change for change's sake" in religion? I can't think of one." I can think of several. One that sticks out in my mind, though, is a culture in Asia (sorry, the name of the culture escapes me right now) with a Traditional religious holiday schedule to which crop rotations and irrigation schedules were closely tied. When members of this culture bowed to outside pressure to adopt western agricultural practices, they divorced crop rotations and irrigation schedules from the religious calendar. The results, as I recall, were disasterous, with consequences ranging from severe soil erosion, water contamination and a plague of rats and other pests.

jacknky

09/25/2006 05:28:55 PM

My experience has been that societies change faster than tradition-bound religions. Simply because Roman and Greek societies were changing doesn't mean the traditional religions were leading the way. For example, in our society it is against the law to discriminate against women. Yet religions, being tradition bound, still discriminate. That's the kind of thing I'm speaking about.

Týsson

09/25/2006 05:15:26 PM

"Nooo. I'm reacting to tradition being the primary reason for keeping things the way they are. there needs to be a valid reason other than tradition." As I have already established, with ample examples (Roman, Greek, Jewish societies), Tradition is not intrinsically stagnant. Therefore, if you are reacting to Tradition being used as a reason, you are not reacting to Tradition itself, but rather to conservatives who are resistant to change.

nnmns

09/25/2006 04:15:48 PM

" am sure that someone can explain love with some academic explanation that it is necessary for the survival of a species or community. But who or what willed that a species should survive?" Not all species have survived. We are fortunate to be members of a species which has survived so far, though we've done several things to make our continued existence less likely, at least in the manner to which we've become accustomed. But reasonably the ability to love and willingly sacrifice oneself for others has helped some people survive and thus has been strengthened as a trait of humans (and some other species, too).

jacknky

09/25/2006 03:58:20 PM

Tysson, "Then what you are reacting to is not Tradition, but conservatism for the sake of conservatism. That's a different ball game altogether. ;-)" Nooo. I'm reacting to tradition being the primary reason for keeping things the way they are. there needs to be a valid reason other than tradition. Some traditions change better than others, what you call a "living tradition". While I admit the need for balance I don't see "too much change" being a problem in religions. Can you give me an example of "change for change's sake" in religion? I can't think of one.

Týsson

09/25/2006 02:21:57 PM

"It is when tradition is used as the reason for not changing or growing." Then what you are reacting to is not Tradition, but conservatism for the sake of conservatism. That's a different ball game altogether. ;-) "There needs to be a reason besides "tradition" not to respond to changing needs and knowledge." Indeed. A living Tradition provides just that. Judaism, I think, is a prime example. Living Traditions are in a constant state of flux in response to changing realities. Their strength lies in their ability to provide a consistent context in which change can be made in an authentic way. Of course, conservatism, too, can have its benefits. Just as conservation for conservation sake is unhealthy, so too is change for the sake of change. In a healthy and vibrant Tradition, these two extremes have a way of balancing each other out.

jacknky

09/25/2006 10:18:30 AM

ECL, Thank you for your kind words.

jacknky

09/25/2006 10:17:44 AM

Tysson, "Tradition is not synonymous with stagnation." It is when tradition is used as the reason for not changing or growing. There needs to be a reason besides "tradition" not to respond to changing needs and knowledge. For example, women and homosexuals are still kept from the leadership of many Christian denominations and "tradition" is often cited as one of the reasons for the discrimination. I think an emphasis on tradition prevents us from re-evaluating our assumptions. For example, WHY don't we allow women priests? Are our traditional reasons still valid?

jacknky

09/25/2006 10:11:05 AM

Namchuck, Thank you for your kind words.

Týsson

09/25/2006 08:41:51 AM

"I hope you don't assign to the Jewish faith because it is absolutely, positively not part of our teachings, construct or mind set." Indeed. It is, however, characteristic of many universalistic faiths.

eastcoastlady

09/25/2006 08:10:20 AM

That is because they believe that they are "the chosen." Everyone else is somehow inferior because they would also "believe" if they were choosen. I hope you don't assign to the Jewish faith because it is absolutely, positively not part of our teachings, construct or mind set.

eastcoastlady

09/25/2006 08:07:27 AM

I prefer the Buddhist concept that we all are endowed with basic compassion and wisdom but we lose sight of it through our own ignorance. I wish more people who claim to be G-dly and religious felt as you do.

Týsson

09/24/2006 06:13:13 PM

"Only if the group values "tradition" over growth and evolving." I think this is a modern conceit, but it may be that you and I are using "Tradition" differently. Ancient Greek and Roman societies were highly innovative, always evolving and growing. They were also highly Traditional. Tradition is not synonymous with stagnation.

namchuck

09/24/2006 04:00:31 PM

Top posts, jacknky!

jacknky

09/24/2006 09:43:41 AM

Tysson, "This tends to be problematic from a Traditional standpoint inasmuch as it has the possibility of threatening group cohesion." Only if the group values "tradition" over growth and evolving. I belong to a UU fellowship which is a group that values diversity, learning from others and growth. Tradition seems to be fairly low in UU and I personally have little use for it. In my mind, "tradition" in and of itself is simply an excuse for stagnation.

jacknky

09/24/2006 09:38:46 AM

libover, "We sinned in the Garden of Eden and were thrown out, and we sinned as soon as we hit the dirt road and throughout mankind." It's called being human. What the Christians call "sin" is mostly being human, in my opinion. To me, the only "sin" is harming others. So for example, being a homosexual is no more a "sin" than being left handed. It's all part of being human. I prefer the Buddhist concept that we all are endowed with basic compassion and wisdom but we lose sight of it through our own ignorance. Hopefully, I can reduce my ignorance. Reducing my humanness is more difficult.

jacknky

09/24/2006 09:34:12 AM

Tysson, "This sort of arrogance is much harder to maintain in a polytheistic world view." Agreed. In fact, I think we agree on much but simply express it differently.

Týsson

09/23/2006 10:23:16 AM

"As for Tysson making the comment "I react because many...I am here to tell you, there isn't one person on this earth that has not sinned." That actually wasn't me. I was quoting jacknky. Be that as it may, "sin" is a construct foreign to my religious views. As such, it plays no part in why I believe.

libover30

09/23/2006 09:47:12 AM

I believe in God because he has always been with me. I have known him since I was a very young person, and he continues to be part of my life. Did I get this from going to church? NO, I don't go to what they call a church. To many of these churches teach incorrectly and I felt I should go to the one who had the answers. I don't have to have a reason to believe, and I guess this is what is called the true believer. Does that make me better than anyone, hell no, we are all the same. Some believe, some don't. But we were all created by the same being. As for Tysson making the comment "I react because many...I am here to tell you, there isn't one person on this earth that has not sinned. We are all sinners. And the ones who say they are not, this is only wishful thinking. We sinned in the Garden of Eden and were thrown out, and we sinned as soon as we hit the dirt road and throughout mankind.

Ibsearchin

09/22/2006 05:48:45 PM

.."many theists perceive that their "goodness" is derived from their god.." That is because they believe that they are "the chosen." Everyone else is somehow inferior because they would also "believe" if they were choosen. I see this arrogance all the time in fundamental Christianity. I.e., the civilians getting slaughtered in Iraq are not God's children like "us USA Christians are," and so therefore, their lives are of less value because they are just heathens etc.

Týsson

09/22/2006 01:56:12 PM

"I react because many theists perceive that their "goodness" is derived from their god and without their god there is no goodness. I don't see it that way." Nor do I. Again, though, I think this is more symptomatic of monotheistic religions, particularly those of a universalistic bent. This sort of arrogance is much harder to maintain in a polytheistic world view.

Týsson

09/22/2006 01:54:22 PM

"Many atheists and agnostics have highly developed moralities." Indeed. It is, however, a highly individualized sense of morality and/or ethics. This tends to be problematic from a Traditional standpoint inasmuch as it has the possibility of threatening group cohesion. That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It simply explains why societies founded on atheistic or agnostic principles are rather a new thing and, historically speaking, the exception rather than the rule.

Týsson

09/22/2006 01:48:14 PM

"I didn't mean to imply it's the only factor. I meant to imply that fear of death is a primary factor in the development of religions." I guess, coming as I do from a religion that focuses more on this world than the next, that I find the "primacy" of death in the development of religion somewhat overstated. It certainly seems to have been an important cornerstone in many religious beliefs such as Christianity and Islam, though.

jacknky

09/22/2006 12:57:05 PM

Tysson, "For them, belief in God forms a keystone which holds their enculturated sense of what is "good" and "right" and "just" together." This is true. Again, my addendum would be that religion isn't necessary to our creating a sense of what is good, right and just. Many atheists and agnostics have highly developed moralities. I react because many theists perceive that their "goodness" is derived from their god and without their god there is no goodness. I don't see it that way.

jacknky

09/22/2006 12:52:35 PM

Tysson, "I'm not saying that fear of death is not a factor in belief. I'm just saying that is generally not the only factor and, for many, perhaps not even an important factor." I didn't mean to imply it's the only factor. I meant to imply that fear of death is a primary factor in the development of religions. There may be some who don't fear death. My experience is that they are highly evolved and few.

jacknky

09/22/2006 12:43:15 PM

Tysson, "My argument was merely that religions form a practical means for encoding that metanarrative." I agree. My additional point was that if there were no religious templates we'd create something else.

jacknky

09/22/2006 12:41:13 PM

jd70, "I am of the opinion though that we can never know "what is", but rather experiance it with a clear and unbiased mind." I agree. Maybe seeing clearly is knowing. I think maybe that's what the Buddha was getting at.

jd70

09/22/2006 12:26:58 PM

I once heard that the beginning of Geneisis can can be interpreted in Hebrew as "With a beginning it created God, and then the heavens and the earth." The point is that "it" is the source of all that exists. Our ability to label "it" with attributes has nothing to do with "it" itself, for that ability comes from "it". When we label "it" as benevolet creator, we run into the problem such as Namchuck described, but to deny a source completely is to me equally problematic.

jd70

09/22/2006 12:10:49 PM

"Our minds churn with thoughts, emotions and beliefs and we don't see what is." Good point jacknky. I am of the opinion though that we can never know "what is", but rather experiance it with a clear and unbiased mind.

eastcoastlady

09/22/2006 12:07:17 PM

I'm not sure that is a fair distinction. Just as it is hard to overestimate what role fear of death plays in belief, This is a very important point. Several people have tried to convert me fearing for my eternal soul, and one person told my husband she was going to pray for his soul because he was going to hell for not believing in Jesus. Other posters have written here that faith is more important than actions and that G-d does not have a scale weighing our good actions against our bad. I guess that justifies the "miracle of salvation" for even the worst criminals who get last rites on their deathbed professing love for Christ.

Týsson

09/22/2006 11:19:16 AM

"How many Christians and Muslims do you think there would be if they didn't promise eternal life?" That's a difficult question to answer. As a practical example, let's consider the "conversion" of the Germanic people to Christianity. Before selling a promise of eternal life, Christianity first had to convince the Germanic people to reject this world in favor of the next. This was a tremendous obstacle that was (arguably) never completely overcome. The world accepting people of the north simply had little use for the world rejecting view of Christianity. As such, a promise of eternal life was not much of a deal closer. Of course, another example might be Judaism. This has been a tremendously influential religion, yet it hardly deals with a notion of an afterlife at all. Again, I'm not saying that fear of death is not a factor in belief. I'm just saying that is generally not the only factor and, for many, perhaps not even an important factor.

Týsson

09/22/2006 11:08:03 AM

"You are speaking on a societal level while I was speaking on a personal level." I'm not sure that is a fair distinction. Just as it is hard to overestimate what role fear of death plays in belief, I believe it is equally hard to overestimate the value people place on the metanarrative. An excellent example of this would be the ongoing debate about evolution vs. creationism. Creationists do not react as vehemently as they do because of fear of death. Rather, their reaction is a response to the challenge evolution poses to their foundational myth regarding their relationship with the divine (not to mention a host of related issues). For them, belief in God forms a keystone which holds their enculturated sense of what is "good" and "right" and "just" together.

Týsson

09/22/2006 10:53:10 AM

"Yes, religions provide a societies "metanarrative" because religion is created by those societies. But societies would provide their "metanarrative" whether they had religions or not." This is, undoubtedly, true. My argument was merely that religions form a practical means for encoding that metanarrative. Be that as it may, the metanarratives of societies that are not based on religion very often rise to the equivalent of mythology. Moreover, those areligious metanarratives are very often firmly rooted in much older paradigms that were, at one time or another, preserved and transmitted through religious mechanisms.

jacknky

09/22/2006 09:48:02 AM

Tysson, "Throughout this discussion there seems to be an assumption that fear of death is a primary motivating factor for belief. However, Traditional religions provide considerably more to their practitioners than answers to the great unknown. They provide the metanarrative for a people upon which all else in the culture is founded." Yes, religions provide a societies "metanarrative" because religion is created by those societies. But societies would provide their "metanarrative" whether they had religions or not. You are speaking on a societal level while I was speaking on a personal level. How many Christians and Muslims do you think there would be if they didn't promise eternal life? I don't think we can over-estimate the power of fear of death. It certainly is real for me.

jacknky

09/22/2006 09:40:03 AM

WillSea, "those that see nothing because they rely only on their limited senses... close themselves off to experience, which is key." I disagree. Belief is not experience. Mostly we see little because we don't know how to see. Our minds churn with thoughts, emotions and beliefs and we don't see what is. Peace...

Ibsearchin

09/22/2006 08:38:49 AM

Yea, and add to all the philosophical problems with the evils and suffering in this world, the fact that the fundamental Christians swear that this benevolent God will send you to hell to burn for eternity if you don't believe just right. Sign me up - NOT!

namchuck

09/21/2006 09:45:54 PM

Yes, Ibsearchin. The little daughter of a good friend of mine was born without a functioning copy of a gene that produces the enzyme HGP. If you are unlucky enough to be born without this enzyme you will suffer from a range of ailments and incapacities known as Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. Among a constellation of incapacities and problems she is afflicted with, is the almost uncontrollable urge to gnaw her fingers off or thrust pointed objects into her eyes. I physically retch when I hear people speak of seeing 'God's hand in everything', or when they talk of a benevolet creator.

Ibsearchin

09/21/2006 09:04:05 PM

I too started to answer the poll with "the experience of God in everyday life." Then I got an image in my mind of a sick infant in a third world country with a swollen belly, flies in it's eyes, and sand in it's mouth. After this, I could not answer the poll.

steppen0410e

09/21/2006 09:01:42 PM

Like Namchuck. I have trouble with this business of seeing 'everything as part of God', especially if the notion of God implies omnibenevolence. Where is this benevolence, say, in those aspects of Nature red in tooth and claw? What about natural disasters that can wipe out millions with all their hopes and dreams while leaving others with terrible life-crippling injuries? While walking around wearing rose-tinted spectacles has its adherents, but it says little about their ability to relate to the realities of life and existence. There is nothing more obvious or testified to at almost every level than that the cosmos is utterly indifferent to our existence, and that life is only interested in getting itself perpetuated. We have invented God as a buffer against all the insecurities of life and existence.

Peaseblossom

09/21/2006 08:20:35 PM

I love the Catholic nurse's response to Shermer and Sulloway's question...I think it reflects the real spirit and change that comes with belief that I really hope to reach some day. In the poll, I answered "the experience of God in everyday life," not because I have had that experience that so many people testify about, but because sometimes, when I meet or talk to someone, or I see something beautiful, I think, "God," especially in moments of complete joy. I try to see everything as a part of God, but my concept of God I have yet to really define.

namchuck

09/21/2006 05:56:58 PM

Make that: 'God is no longer an explanatory principle for anything...' and 'God is epistemologically unnecessary'.

namchuck

09/21/2006 05:54:44 PM

(continued) In fact, God as no longer an explanatory principle for anything we observe in the universe. Gos is simply epistemologically unnecessary. This does not imply that God has been disproven, only that its utility function in the universe has pretty much been reduced to zero. There are increasingly fewer and fewer reasons to believe in the existence of a God, and it has been my observation that people believe for personal and emotional reasons rather than on the basis of any logical deductions. I am an atheist in the sense of someone who does not think there is any good reason to believe in a supernatural entity that created and supervises the cosmos. I do not know that such an entity is not there, but until extraordinary evidence is provided to substantiate such an extraordinary assertion, I place God on the same shelf as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

namchuck

09/21/2006 05:43:19 PM

Firstly, for clarification and contrary to popular understanding, an atheist is not someone who believes that there is no God, but rather one who lacks a belief in God (a-theism, without God). There are several forms of atheism, and several reasons to be an atheist. Atheism is not even a philosophy. Rather, it represents a conclusion derived from certain philosophical positions, such as empiricism and naturalism (but not necessarily rationalism, a la Descartes). Secondly, and despite what AngelFood has said, not everything 'has the hand print of God on it', unless, of course, AngelFood wants to include in that everything such devastating and horible ailments as cloacal exstrophy and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. Every time I see a picture of conjoined infants I find the notion of an All good Omnipotent being absurd. And all the other things AngelFood identifies as signifying the hand of God can be explained without invoking the supernatural.

AngelFood

09/21/2006 03:39:57 PM

Who believes in God and Why? For one I believe that there is a Creator "God", and why do I beleive this, well it's pretty simple....take a good look around, everything that that has God hand print on it has order, from the Univers and all the galaxies to our cells and DNA. The proof that there is a God is all around us, just the fact that people think, tell is we have a maker, creator, God. If you exist then don't you think God exist too....

Týsson

09/21/2006 03:13:40 PM

"So we accept the existence of another kind of supernatural being we can't see- one who will watch over us in life and fix that little problem with death." While there is truth to this, I think it is simplistic. Throughout this discussion there seems to be an assumption that fear of death is a primary motivating factor for belief. However, Traditional religions provide considerably more to their practitioners than answers to the great unknown. They provide the metanarrative for a people upon which all else in the culture is founded. Whether the gods exist or not, whether there is an afterlife waiting for us or not, these are largely irrelevant questions. Even if there were no gods and no afterlife, religions provide an efficient means by which to encode a culture's values, its dreams and its aspirations. Myth goes far beyond mere explanation. Rather, it embodies what is eternally true for a particular culture, an ideal to which mortals may aspire generation after generation.

Ibsearchin

09/21/2006 03:06:48 PM

I find myself to be an agnostic. However, I feel that atheism is also a "belief" which cannot be proven. There are many who will argue religiously that there is nothing beyond what our 5 physical senses tells us. However,consider that even modern science is saying there may multitudes of dimensions that exist (and could possible interact with ours). Just study the latest "M" or string theories and get your mind blown by the possibilites. Photons of light that originate at the same source can somehow communicate with each other even after travelling apart for thousands of light years! Although this is subject to much scrutiny, I know of someone who had an NDE and was able to mention details of the upper hospital floors, what people were saying, and many other specifics that were impossible to know (even though they were in a coma). I suspect that there is a spiritual dimension - even though it may be better understood one day by science as a realm beyond our current understanding.

WillSea

09/21/2006 02:51:23 PM

all this is fine, but let me just state what I do/don't believe: I don't believe in a personality in the sky out there, pulling strings and pushing buttons. I DO feel a personal affinity with a universal Intelligence, a Divine Pattern of Love, a Principle of Life, and a Unity of Energy, that can be called God for lack of a better word. When I say that I believe in this Presence, it's not because I've seen it. Physical senses are limited (eyes see only visible wavelengths of light, ears hear only a certain range, etc) but I do know that I have felt this Presence, used its creative laws, am a part of Life, and that I love. As many atheists/agnostics will say, any definitions beyond experience are pointless, but it's the experience that counts. cont'd

WillSea

09/21/2006 02:51:08 PM

cont'd I would love to tweak both ends of the spiritual spectrum, those that see nothing because they rely only on their limited senses, and those that only believe because they were told/conditioned to believe. Both positions close themselves off to experience, which is key.

jacknky

09/21/2006 12:02:21 PM

ibsearch, "Also, though it may be impossible to prove that there is a God, it is equally impossible to prove otherwise." Why believe in something we can't see? Because we need to. The supernatural existence of god(s) is the primary human area where reason is not applied. If I told you little green men live in my toothpaste you would probably not believe me until you saw the little green men. You don't really NEED little green men. But many of us NEED to feel certain and secure in our uncertain and insecure lives. So we accept the existence of another kind of supernatural being we can't see- one who will watch over us in life and fix that little problem with death.

Týsson

09/21/2006 09:27:44 AM

"Belief and attachment lie at the root of religious strife." This really doesn't seem to be a problem among polytheistic religions. Dogma is difficult to establish in polytheism. As such, there is greater acceptance that others have established different relationships with differnt gods. No, your comment seems more indicative of monotheistic faiths, particularly those that are universalist in focus. Strife seems inevitible if people believe there is only one god, that there is only one way to establish a relationship with that god and that it is mandatory that everyone establish that relationship. This is, to my mind, one of the distinguishing characteristics that separates Judaism from Christianity and Islam.

nnmns

09/20/2006 11:42:39 PM

"how many people believe whether there is any purpose or meaning to life. I.e., don't we normally assume that if life has a purpose, there must be someone or something that declares it as such" I believe there is a purpose to my life; actually a few. And I'm an atheist. I'd like to leave the world a little better place for my having been here; just a conceit of mine maybe. I'd like to especially help my family. That follows from biology/evolution. I'd like to enjoy life for quite some time. And perhaps the first two follow from that. There are probably more.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

09/20/2006 10:04:53 PM

A key word was missing in paragraphs 2 and 3), so I am reposting those 2 paragraphs from my previous note. "With that in mind, is it not better to refrain from creating an idol for the ego and instead allow oneself to be stripped of the egoic layers until whatever is or is not God can reveal itself directly? When one apprehends the genuine article there are no words, no images, no thing, that can represent what unfolds within. Belief and attachment lie at the root of religious strife. There is no argument where there is no derivative form or interpretation.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

09/20/2006 10:02:28 PM

Ibsearchin, The difficult lies in the egoic need to create an "imago dei" that is related to as God. That image held by the mind, framed by belief is not God. It is one thing when we hold an image of people whom we experience in the physical, and even then we are often surprised by how the person is not whom we believe them to be. (For a good example of this in film, see the remake of "Solaris" from about 5 years ago.) With that in mind, is it not better to refrain from creating an idol for the ego and instead allow oneself to be stripped of the egoic layers until whatever is or is not God can reveal itself directly? When apprehends the genuine article there are no words, no images, no thing, that can represent what unfolds within. Belief and attachment lie at the root of religious strife. There is no argument where there is no derivative form or interpretation.

Ibsearchin

09/20/2006 09:38:01 PM

Let's take this a step further and see how many people believe whether there is any purpose or meaning to life. I.e., don't we normally assume that if life has a purpose, there must be someone or something that declares it as such (and hence we assign God to that role)? When we say that such and such worked out the way it was supposed to, are we not saying that it was willed to be that way? Another question I have is what is love? I am sure that someone can explain love with some academic explanation that it is necessary for the survival of a species or community. But who or what willed that a species should survive? Though we can can't completely explain the concept of God, I still believe that there is more to life than random nothingness. Also, though it may be impossible to prove that there is a God, it is equally impossible to prove otherwise.

nnmns

09/20/2006 06:23:37 PM

"we might conclude that there is actually no God and that we invented him to explain things that our ignorance and intellectual limitation precludes us from understanding, at least temporarily." Indeed we might.

namchuck

09/20/2006 05:30:33 PM

jacknky is right. Why the assumption of God in the first place? The world was a very frightening place for our ancient forebears (it still is), and humans have a deep psychological need for security. Perhaps we simply invented God to meet this need. Add to this the idea that the more we know about the natural world, the less we need to invoke God as an explanatory priciple to understand the world. If carried to its logical (albeit tentative) limit, we might conclude that there is actually no God and that we invented him to explain things that our ignorance and intellectual limitation precludes us from understanding, at least temporarily.

jacknky

09/20/2006 12:56:10 PM

Life is uncertain and death is certain. If there were no gods we would invent them.

jacknky

09/20/2006 12:52:11 PM

cknuck, "The important thing here is a relationship with God. Few will find it and God is selective." Why is God selective? It seems like if he loves each and every one of us he/she/it would be inclusive, not selective.

Týsson

09/20/2006 12:48:15 PM

"I think that an even more concise study would include what people believe God IS and how others perceive God" Agreed. However, this once again places the survey in monotheistic terms. It may seem a superficial difference, especially if one is of a pantheistic or panentheistic bent. However, in my experience, "What do you believe God is?" can elicit very different responses than, "What do you believe the gods are?"

WillSea

09/20/2006 12:42:09 PM

I think that an even more concise study would include what people believe God IS and how others perceive God: Parent, Source, Infinite Intelligence, etc. And then determine whether that jives with one's stated religious conviction. And kendraj, maybe that leads to a different perception: what do you see God as? If it's a being "out there somewhere" who favors some and not others, then you may be seeing what you are expecting to see. If on the other hand, we look for Life or Love or Compassion, or an expression of Intelligence, then we see that everywhere. So the point is not what God is/isn't doing, but how we tune our vision.

Týsson

09/20/2006 11:53:54 AM

It would have been interesting to see a more detailed study that examined differences in reasons for belief among different religions. Predictably, this study seems to have focused exclusively on a monotheistic paradigm. I don't know if they would have gotten different responses from people outside that paradigm or not, but I do imagine the percentages would have shifted.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

09/20/2006 11:28:20 AM

kendraj, on the Sufi discussion forum, someone started a discussion,"God is Calling". My response was: "I picked up the line and heard silence. I listened more intently and still heard silence. I listened with all my attention and became silent."

kendraj

09/20/2006 11:16:42 AM

I don't understand this God thing. Why is it that God supposedly contacts some but not all. If he loved us truly, he would want to show his love, but he doesn't does he? I have asked for a sign, prayed deeply but nothing. My husband has also tried but nothing. Therefore, God does not want any relationship with us. Relationships are 2 sided after all, two to tango and all that.

eastcoastlady

09/20/2006 11:08:52 AM

Why would G-d be selective about those who want a relationship with Him? My perspective is that G-d wants us all to have a relationship with Him. The world would likely be a happier place if that were so.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

09/20/2006 07:22:04 AM

God is a word that encompasses whatever a person or religious tradition wants it to encompass. It is a free-floating signifier, a box, which we relate to as though it were as real as the objects we interact with physically. The problem is, God is virtual and local in this sense, and there is no way to square this against what we experience. The key then is to abandon "God" and to experience nakedly without the filter provided by the words, beliefs, and forms that are to the ego as the layers spun into a pearl by an oyster. Drop the pearl into wine and become intoxicated on unfiltered experience.

steppen0410e

09/20/2006 07:07:44 AM

"God is selective". Which God are you referring to, cknuck? And how do you know that he/she/it is selective? Did he/she/it tell you that, or did you read it somewhere?

nnmns

09/20/2006 01:10:28 AM

The question "Do you believe in God?" presumes there is a god you may or may not believe in. A much better form of the question would be "Do you believe in a god?" Still better, "Do you believe in a god or gods?" That of course presumes "god" is a sexless term which obviously some would argue. Interesting study. More people should study religion and the effects of various beliefs on the believers.

Ibsearchin

09/19/2006 10:50:37 PM

I believe that there is an intelligence beyond our seperate selves that forms a fabric tying everything together. Call it a cosmic consciousness or whatever but I believe it is a connectedness of all things. I see it more as a something instead of "somebody" as I think we may be making a mistake due to our limited intelligence when we insist on making God an "other being" like we are. Adding to this analogy, I sort of see God like the internet. The internet is a "thing" but really, it is the sum total of all the intelligence and resources (computers, servers, routers, switches, etc.) that combine together individually to make it the whole.

cknuck

09/19/2006 10:13:35 PM

The important thing here is a relationship with God. Few will find it and God is selective.

namchuck

09/19/2006 09:21:01 PM

The problem for me is that, the word 'God' has become so tarnished and laden with definitions, descriptions, and beliefs that perhaps it has lost that which it originally may have signified. And I think that something is along the lines of mightymountaingorilla's understanding. One can concede the existence of genuine knowledge outside the range of science. There are questions that science cannot answer (the mistake is assuming that religion can answer these questions), but there is a danger of tying moral guidance to unpalatable myths, as religion has done. If by 'God' people mean the creative vitality of nature, rather than a supreme intelligent and benevolent being, then, yes, I can go along with that.

windbender

09/19/2006 08:35:58 PM

Sometimes I wonder if "presumption" might not serve as a suitable substitute for "belief".

jd70

09/19/2006 07:50:54 PM

"God" at the root level is simply the unknown. Each event that unfolds is unknown to us until it happens. For me it is not about believing in "God", but rather learning to live in peace with the knowledge that there is an unknown component to our existance.

mightymountaingorilla

09/19/2006 07:35:34 PM

I think the underlying reason behind most ppl's belief in God is two-fold. The first is that sometimes good things happen to us. Things we can't necessarily explain other than by pure luck. Especially when we are under hard times. The second reason I think ppl believe in God is because they see human goodness at work everywhere. Even when it's easy and most convenient to be selfish, ppl give themselves over to the betterment of humanity. My basis of understanding God is the energy from which everyone and everything is made.

Gwyddion9

09/19/2006 07:19:29 PM

I think another valid and important point to be made is that one can believe in God or Goddess, as I do, without believing in the monotheistic belief or understanding of ”God”. Their belief is only one view of deity and not the available or viable belief. I believe in the Goddess and God because of personal experience with them. Because of all that I can see and perceive in creation, is apart of them. Much like the comments made by those spoken in this article, “God” cannot nor should be defined by one religion. No one religion can cover every aspect of the Divine. The finite can never comprehend the infinite but that in no way should dictate that we don’t seek to understand it.

blueberryangel

09/19/2006 07:15:44 PM

None of the above. I don't believe in God for any if those reasons. I certainly don't believe the universe is especially beautiful or perfect, God doesn't necessarilly give me a whole lot of comfort either. Nor do I believe because I need to. Well, maybe I do need to, but that's not WHY I believe. I just do. I always have just known that something more exists, it's that simple. That's just what it is for me.

windbender

09/19/2006 06:33:06 PM

"Here I am and it wasn't my idea." is the beginning of faith.

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