9-05-13 10:10  •  The Rape of God

Erma: You just don't understand! God does not want to "force" us to follow Him...He gives us "free" will, "free" choice.

Well, in my opinion, "Love me or you will go to Hell" is not much of a choice. It's more of a rape - "Have sex with me or I will kill you." At least she had free will, right?

But my question is, if "accepting God" is the BIG QUESTION which the universe was created to present, the absolute high-stakes, make-or-break decision which determines your fate for all eternity...then why is there NOTHING of this question reflected in most of other major religions?

Why are Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists, Native Americans, Taoists, etc. completely oblivious to the choice God is offering? Why does it form no part of their beliefs? Why did "accepting God" form NO part of the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Aztecs, or Vikings?

All of these are rich spiritual traditions with elaborate afterlife descriptions. But "accepting God" is nowhere in the criteria for getting a good afterlife in those religions. Most of those focus on burial rituals as the criteria for how the afterlife is determined.

Are Hindus, Shintos, etc just too blind to see the only important thing in the universe - the choice God is offering of giving you the good or bad afterlife for all eternity - and incorporate it into their religion?

BabyGirl: Actually, there are several references to "higher powers" in all of those ancient religious practices and times.

Of course there are. I never said they didn't have gods. But having faith in the higher power is not the factor by which those religions determine the nature of the afterlife.

BabyGirl: The line basically stands as this: You either have FAITH in Salvation through Christ or you don't. You either believe God exists or you don't. Thats all there is to it, FAITH.

That's my point. The other religions I described do not require that you have FAITH to get the good afterlife.

For example, most Hindu traditions posit that when a human dies the soul is reincarnated. But you don't have to have FAITH that you will be reincarnated in order to be reincarnated. You don't have to have FAITH that the Hindu gods are real. According to them, it happens to everybody automatically.

The nature of the reincarnation is not determined by FAITH either - it is far more dependent on correctly performing riturals, or accepting one's social station without question, or sometimes on doing enough good deeds to reap positive karma. For some reason, the Hindus did not incorporate do-or-fry FAITH into their religion.

Same with the other traditions I mentioned. As far as the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Aztecs were concerned, how your body was buried was the big factor which determines the nature of your afterlife. So the responsibility would be more on your survivors than you. Having FAITH in their gods didn't enter into it.

And if you were Viking, you could only pass through the Halls of Asgard to the grandest hall, Valhalla, if you died in battle killing your enemies, and then only half of those guys get to go. It was nothing to do with faith - the nature of the afterlife was determined by one's status as a warrior.

My question is, if FAITH is the only thing that matters, why haven't the Hindus, etc. figured it out?

BabyGirl: You either have it or you don't..thats the choice God gives us all.

Why are the Hindus, etc. unaware of this choice? Blind?

BabyGirl: No, but their religious beliefs are part of their culture, it's second nature to them. It's all around them and all they know. There isn't the question of "is this right?" because they don't know any different.

Yes, but why not? If the one thing God wants from every human is to have FAITH in him, if the whole universe was created to give humans that choice, then why didn't He tell the Hindus that? Why didn't He share that crucial piece of information with the Shinto, the Buddhists, the Taoists, the Polynesian Islanders, the Amazon Basiners, the Native Americans? The Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Aztecs, Vikings?

If FAITH is the only thing that matters, why didn't any of those people make FAITH the big linchpin of their religion like the Christians did? What is wrong with them, that they can't see what is so very plain to Christians - exactly what God is offering?

BabyGirl: I'm sure there is a reason. Im just saying I personally believe what God tells us...

How do you know that what people told you God tells us is what He is really telling us?

BabyGirl: Its not at all about one religion is superior to the other at all...

It's not about one religion being superior, but if you fail to believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins you will regret it for all eternity. That's not inferior though.

BabyGirl: I can't explain why it seems that way. God asks us to believe in him and trust in him for the afterlife, its what is written in the Bible.

The explanation is extremely simple. The people who said that you have to believe in God, or else, appear to be wrong.

BabyGirl: If you have faith in Christ then you do, if not then so be it.

Good people will be tortured forever, but so be it.

Sandy: But what about those who have never been taught about God at all?

Or are taught something completely different?

Let's take Hinuds for example. The one thing I know about Hindus is that they do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. So, according to the most basic tenet of Christianity, that means they will fry in Hell.

That leaves some rather disparate choices. Either:

1) After death, Hindus actually fry in Hell for not believing in Jesus.

That seems pretty unfair, because, as BabyGirl mentioned, Hinduism is their culture. Why should they have to have "FAITH" dictate the conditions of their afterlife when their religion does not require it?

If this is the case it would be very unjust.


2) They don't believe in Jesus, but God lets them into Heaven when they die anyway because they didn't have the chance to accept Jesus.

I've heard people suggest that babies, Native Americans, Polynesians and Hindus, and people who never heard of Christ, are not sent to hell for not believing in Jesus because they didn't have a chance to believe.

That seems a little fairer. But what about that whole original sin thing? I thought that was supposed to be in all humans. Do the babies and the Hindus get forgiven for original sin without having to accept Jesus!?

If God can make an exception for them, why can't He forgive the people in our culture who don't believe?

Also, if only the people who have heard of this stuff are on the hook for it, that's really just a fraction of all the humans who have ever lived. Why bother sending just this group of people to Hell for non-belief when everyone else gets a pass?


3) Christianity is wrong. God is not actually presenting every person with a make-or-break choice to have FAITH or not have it. The course of your afterlife is not dictated by how you make this choice. FAITH, or lack thereof, is not actually the most important thing in the universe or even important at all. What happens in the afterlife, if anything, is not known by any person, Christian or otherwise.

Sandy: Is each and every ancient egyptian burning in hell because they lived prior to God making his presence known to mankind?

According to them, as long as they had their brain removed through the nose after death and their corpse was mummified and piled around with sufficient supplies to keep their spirits sustained, their afterlife is hunky-dory.

But who would believe something like that?!

9-05-13 11:11  •  The Rape of God Pt. 2

Erma, you know I appreciate you speaking with me of these matters. Your reply goes right to the heart of my feelings, so this gives me a great opportunity to explain. Thank you.

Erma: "Rape"? Someone is "forcing" a sex act...God is not "forcing" anything...

Frankly I am surprised you are even suggesting this.

It's not just considered rape if he overpowers her and holds her down and she cannot escape penetration. It is equally rape if he threatens to kill her, and she lays down for him to avoid being killed.

The threat of Christianity - believe in Jesus or you will go to Hell - is every bit as much of a rape. "Do this, or you will pay." It's sickening.

Erma: But Hell isn't a threat...it doesn't really involve flames...it has many interpretations...

What does that matter? This is a meaningless dodge and here is why.

1) There may be different interpretations of Hell but there are no good ones. Christianity is explicity clear that failing to believe in Jesus means you aren't absolved of original sin. Just because some interpretations don't include a "lake of fire" doesn't mean they think that it's okay. Whatever Hell is, it's depicted as THE BAD PLACE. Therefore, it is a threat.

2) Who cares how many interpretations there are of nothing?

There is not one scrap of evidence in this entire universe to show that "Hell" even exists. No person knows what, if anything, happens in "the afterlife." As far as anyone knows, "Faith or Hell" could be nothing more than a myth. Certainly other human spiritual traditions aren't coming up with this stuff.

The central tenet of Christianity is a cruel threat and all the crueler for being, as far as anyone can tell, a Big Lie. Why even bother supposing that Christianity is right about this? Why would anyone even want this to be true?

Erma: "Separation" from God is what Jehova Witnesses believe.

Like they know.

Erma: You are saying that "religious" beliefs from the past do not talk about one God...

No, I was not discussing monotheism vs. polytheism. I said that those religions do not require faith to secure the good afterlife. They do not propose "Faith or Hell."

If it was that important you'd think God would have told them.

Erma: Here's my thought...after the first covenant..and remember that is what Jews go by...

Like they know.

Erma: In all honesty, I wish that more people would show Jesus in "love" than in "fear"...

The Unitarian Universalists have dropped the whole "hell" thing from their religion. They suggest that the idea of Universal Salvation is more consistent with the teachings of Christ.

Christianity would be much more like you describe if everyone would follow suit.

Thanks again.

Rebecca: And you just waste your time asking people unanswerable questions, like why do people go to Hell? You may as well ask, why is grass green?

Grass is green because it contains chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis, the process by which energy from the sun is utilized for growth and metabolism. It appears "green" because it absorbs very little of the green portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, and those frequencies are reflected back into the photoreceptors in our eyes. We call it "green" because we inherited this word from Middle English, grün, which means "to grow."

Rebecca: You should pray to God for answers about Hell because I don't have them.

Nobody has them, no matter how much they pray. That is the point.

The purpose of the questions is to illustrate how absurd it is to think one religion knows "what God wants" and the others don't. It leads to extremely cruel ideas, like that non-believers will suffer for all eternity, or that other cultures would be better off if they left their traditions for yours.

Rebecca: There are people in this world who have never even heard of God that is why believers are told to spread the word of God and tell others what we know.

Claiming that you "know" more about God than they do is ethnocentric, not to mention ridiculous.

Erma: My point is, there are many versions of heaven and hell from many religions...

All the more reason for Christianity to quit pretending they are the right one.

Erma: ...so it's almost like they all are "mixed" or connected with different beliefs on how they view what happens after death...

In fact, it's almost like no one knows anything about it and they are just making stuff up. In fact it is indistinguishable from this.

Erma: Honestly Raver...I think whatever happens, we wont know till it happens...

...if then. All the more reason not to try to pass off pure speculation as somehow being known. Particularly when the speculation is a cruel threat.

Erma: Christians aren't the only ones claiming to know. All those religions you talked about THINK they are the right one also.

Yes, and any unsubstantiated claims of those religions would be just as suspect.

Erma: So Christians should step back and say "yea, we are NOT right because there are other beliefs?

The fact that there are other beliefs should certainly bring pause.

Erma: What makes Christianity any different from other religions in that aspect?

Nothing. Any religion is bogged down by its unsubstantiated claims.

Erma: I thought you had a religion...do you think they are making things up?

Generally speaking, Buddhism is not making unsubstantiated claims. Buddhism is not positing a diety, a soul, or an afterlife. The observations of the Buddha are not supernatural, they are something any person can observe firsthand also. The tenets are ones that anyone can observe to be workable.

That said, there are some sects of Buddhism, like Tibetan, which are making some unsubstantiated claims - such as, the efficacy of spinning prayer wheels to purify negative karma, or some such - and I would say that unsubstantiated claims like this are bogging them down as much as those kinds of claims always do.

Erma: Raver, every religion you sited..had a "threat" of some kind...to be good or else. Did they not?

No, Buddhism doesn't. But even excepting Buddhism, just because a lot of people say it doesn't mean it's true. People's afferlife speculations can be anything and there is no correlation between the beliefs and anything actually known about the afterlife.

People can say anything. That is not a reason to act like it is true.

Erma: Chrisitanity is so bashed that one would wonder "why" if it's completely false.

Well, being completely false and passed off as true would certainly be a good reason to bash it. But anyway, no one ever said that Christianity is completely false. It contains wisdom. That doesn't mean Christians should claim they know what to expect in the afterlife.

Erma: Why would people be so up and against it if it was completely ludicrous?

Because a lot of people believe it, it has a lot of political power, and it is creating a lot of error.

Erma: It's not the religion Raver, it's the "people" who do bad things and hide "behind" religion.

If that is true, then why do people do this with Christianity very often and do it with Buddhism very seldom? The content of the tenets and their connection with reality seem to have an effect on how the religion is used.

Edna, thanks again, you know you always make me think with your questions!!

9-05-13 9:10  •  Robbing Humans to Pay God

OrangeCarrot: I was reading about a woman whose son has cancer. She talked about the horrible treatments he must endure, all the laundry she has to do from his constant throwing up, etc. Then she goes on to thank God for providing enough money to pay for the laundry soap, and describes how good God is to them in general.

How on earth is it that people never once stop to think "Maybe if God was so good, he wouldn't have given my child cancer in the first place"?

People always attribute every little bit of good they can find to god, but never ever think about where all the bad things in life may be coming from. I just don't get it, it makes me feel like banging my head on a wall sometimes!

God explains his policy here:

OrangeCarrot: LMAO!

Bella: My question to OrangeCarrot is, if that woman's belief is helping her through this hard time, why would you want to take that last shred of help and hope away from her?

OrangeCarrot: Wha...??

I understand what Bella is saying. During a period of terrible stress is no time to confront people about their coping mechanisms. And I didn't get the impression that OrangeCarrot actually tried to dissuade this woman from her beliefs.

However, people often use Bella's rationale as a reason for not confronting Christianity at all. Why challenge the unsubstantiated claims, if that's what some people in tragic circumstances are clinging to?

I would say that it's sad that some people have nowhere else to turn, but the group of people in tragedies is not sufficient reason to refrain from challenging Christianity generally.

Pointing out that life doesn't appear to have a deity managing either the good or the bad is legitimate, and important.

Bella: I fail to see why it's wrong to look at your blessings in times of hardships instead of focusing on only the bad......

I think the problem is crediting "God" with providing the money for the laundry soap. If you examine where the money came from, you will probably find that it was earned in some kind of job, or gifted from a particular concerned party, or was from an inheritance, or some other perfectly natural explanation. I seriously doubt there is any money in any bank that was deposited there by God.

The problem with crediting God for providing money is that money usually already has explanations. So what exactly is supposed to be the God part?

At this point people usually invoke the power of God to move hearts. Suppose the money for the laundry soap was donated by a member of her church who was "moved by God" to help out?

Well, sometimes people are compassionate and generous and get the idea themselves to help out. So unless you want to rob humans of all ability to be generous on their own, there is no way to tell if God was involved in this particular transaction or not.

The upshot is, there is usually an observable chain of cause and effect which explains where money came from and there doesn't seem to be a point where God must have done anything.

Ultimately I think it would be better to understand why things actually happen than try to shoehorn God into the chain.

Bella: If only more people could find (and treasure) the positive in life, rather than dwell on the negativity.

If only more people could find (and treasure) the positive in life, without having to act like it was all arranged by their magic friend.

Jill: Personally I feel that God provides people with the ability to practice medicine so we can take advantage of it. Sort of a "tool."

Bleh. That gives humans exactly zero credit for having brains or compassion. Why give God the credit for human medicine? You can examine the history of medicine and see where it comes from. It was developed by intelligent human minds and warm human hearts.

There is no reason to strip the great human beings who built this art of their due and hand it over to "God."

Jill: I just believe the "intelligent human minds" were God given.

What part did God do?

Jill: From what I believe, he created us and gave us the ability to learn and discover things.

There is no evidence of this. Humans and human intelligence appear to have arisen gradually as a result of a natural process. What part would God have to do?

Jill: That's why I said "I believe." You believe differently.

Whoa...where did I say I have any beliefs about it?

Jill: Sorry, didn't mean to make any assumptions. :)

I was not offended. But the distinction is an extremely critical one, which is exactly the point.

Sure, it's always easy to say, "I believe this, and you believe differently. The end."

That might make it sound as if it's a toss-up...like it's nothing more than a matter of opinion, and any one opinion is exactly as good as any other.

I have often seen this employed as a dodge - to make a scientific assessment based on physical evidence seem just as insubstantial as an opinion based on a faith belief in what some guy said. However they are not equivalent.

The scientific assessment that brains arose naturally appears to correspond to all that is observable about brains, life and physics, and is corroborated with mountains of physical evidence. It is attained with intricate understanding of how genetic mechanisms and biological relationships acted directly upon the neurons. It provides us with a tool to test new understandings of the brain and upgrade our assessments for accuracy.

The faith belief that "God designed the brain" is just an idea, based on some point of dogma that God designed everything, or at least everything good. There is zero evidence to support it. There is nothing about this that explains how it was possible or gives any new understanding. People just think it was. The end.

Well if that is all you want from your understanding then I guess it's enough for you. But I find it unappreciative.

The pointless conviction that "God did it" utterly short-changes life itself of the credit where credit is due, for the amazing ability of life to pull itself up out of the muck, to shape itself, and to endow itself with intelligence. Giving the credit to a being who is way smarter and uses magic robs life itself of its greatest achievement - figuring this out and doing it on its own.

And for what? So that people can continue to believe one particular line or another from the bible? Why cherish the unsupported belief in your head about what some guy said a long time ago about God, over what you, yourself, can observe, and know that you, yourself, along with all lifekind, are responsible for creating? Why prefer the quick, boring, unsupported and physically impossible speculation over the magnificent, amazing, wonderful and tantalizing truth as shown by the evidence? To what end?

9-05-13 11:10  •  Shout Out

9-05-13 9:10  •  All About Hell

2: I'm a Christian, but I don't understand where some of these "teachings" about Hell come from.

Someone said them.

2: Seriously, do people really teach this? If you aren't of a certain denomination, you're going to Hell? If you don't vote a certain way, dress a certain way, speak a certain way, etc - you must not be a "real" Christian and you're going to Hell?

The doctrine of Hell is just the ugliest thing about Christianity. No matter who you think is going to Hell, you are supporting the idea that there are two kinds of humans, the good ones and the other ones. However there is no evidence of this.

Christianity would be wise to drop the whole Hell thing. It cannot be used without creating ugliness and exclusion.

2: Could you explain your understanding of the doctrine of Hell?

According to who? There is a different "understanding" of it for every person who talks about it.

It is often described as some kind of afterlife. Some people think you go there if you fail to accept Christ as your personal savior. Some think that evil people go there. Some think it is a lake of fire, some think it is nothing more than eternal separation from God. Some think all who go will burn there in torment eternally, others think that ordinary sinners burn for awhile and then are consumed, but a false prophet will burn forever.

Some think you have to decide while you are alive to accept Jesus and other people think that God will give you a chance to choose after you are dead. Some think you can avoid it with faith alone, some think you must have faith and works. Some people, like the UUs, say that no one ever goes there or it doesn't exist.

Some people even have extra ancillary Hells, like Limbo and Purgatory, to describe other "not Heavens."

As a facet of our popular culture, it could probably be described as "the bad afterlife." Here's a typical rendition:

People generally depict it as the wrong choice.

My personal understanding of the doctrine of Hell is that it is something people say.

2: I am asking you not what others say, but what you yourself perceive?

I do not have any direct personal perception of "Hell." I don't actually know of anyone who does. Do you?

2: If all you know about Hell is what someone else says, how can you say it's the ugliest thing about Christianity?

It's the ugliest thing people say about Christianity.

If there is some other source of information about Hell besides what people say, what is it?

2: You're speaking as if you are very familiar with this doctrine (in all its varieties) - I'm wondering about your sources of information.

All kinds of study and all kinds of conversations over the course of many years.

If you think my descriptions are inaccurate, why don't you tell me what the more accurate description is, where you got it, and how you were able to confirm that it is more accurate?

2: I was specifically asking about yours.

That is why I explained it.

EllsBells: From what i gather..and im not raver...her perceptions of hell are gleaned from what others have shared.

Yes, and I would add that as far as I can tell, there is no way to find out anything "about" Hell any other way than what others have shared. Even reading scriptures is just reading what the authors of the scripture have shared. "Hell" cannot be confirmed experientially.

But I very explicitly noted that I do not have any "perceptions" of Hell and I don't know anyone who does. Every single thing there is to say about it is just something people are saying.

EllsBells: Either way..it ain't a "good" place.

That's what they say. But why repeat somebody else's cruel, exclusionary, unconfirmed hearsay as if it was true?

EllsBells: Lucky for me that i reject the concept lol

This is the kind of luck you make yourself. :-)

Brittney: You may think Hell is "ugly," but life is not one big fairytale. There will always be "ugliness" in this world.

All the more reason not to create additional ugliness by claiming that there is a "bad" afterlife.

Brittney: Christianity cannot drop hell because it is a part of our belief.

Unless you have been to a stoning lately, there are a number of ugly beliefs that you have already dropped. Many people are working right now to drop the ugly Christian beliefs about gay sex being abomination, etc. It can happen, when people care about having a good system that is just and compassionate.

Brittney: Just because you don't like something doesn't mean you can just erase it out.

Why not? The Unitarian Universalists did and they seem to be doing just fine.

Brittney: People need to focus more on just doing what's right (whatever that may mean to you) rather than "taking hell out of the equation" because their scared.

The UUs did not "take hell out of the equation because their scared." From what I understand, they did it because Salvation for all seems much more compatible with the compassionate teachings of Jesus.

Ruth: If you want to drink a beer now and then, I promise you will face eternal damnation for that.

Well I'm glad we got that straightened out.

Ruth: sorry meant you will not. my bad.

My answer would be the same. How lucky we are to have you to "promise" us the criteria by which we will (or will not) face eternal damnation.

Ruth: You are very literally but instead of attacking Christianity as a whole...

I am not attacking Christianity as a whole. However I am challenging unsubstantiated claims wherever I see them, including within Christianity.

Ruth:...stop and read the Bible for yourself.

I have thank you.

Ruth: You will be amazed at some of the things that regardless of popular believe is not a sin.

I am not particularly concerned with what is or isn't a "sin."

Some behaviors are moral and work and some are immoral and don't work and many are rather neutral. This can be seen by how they affect us and the lives of those around us. That is enough criteria to determine right action.

How these behaviors might be viewed by a being in judgement, according to some guy a long time ago, could hardly be as relevant as how what we do defines who we are right now.

Ruth: The Bible is very revelent in today's society.

Possibly. However you don't need a bible. It is possible to figure out what to do without it.

Ruth: Some things, but not everything. The path does not teach or promote hate matter of fact it tells us to love our enemies as we love our neighbors and that vengenance is God's. It teaches forgiveness, unconditonal love and that even though we are not perfect in God's eyes He loves us.

It is possible to figure out all that without the Bible.

Ruth: We can even start with the commandments, they are very relevant today, the reward of working hard. treating others how you want to be treated, really it is.

That may be, but that's just because it's good advice. The bible isn't magical just because it has some good advice in it, and the bible is hardly the only source of good advice. Plenty of people in other religions and in no religion are able to figure out all this without the bible.

There is nothing there that you cannot figure out yourself just by living in a decent society and seeing what works and what doesn't. In particular, specifying some actions as "sin" - offensive to God - is not necessary to create a good moral system. It is simple enough to observe what brings good and what brings ill and learn to know the difference.

You don't need a rule book. You can learn what to do from life itself.

The bible, and Christianity, don't have the secret to what is good, or what works.

And, there is certainly no reason to think Christianity has the secret to a good afterlife. What happens, if anythying, is simply unknown. Claims to the contrary are just talk.

9-04-13 11:12  •  Consistency Parenting

Carrie: I have seen many moms say they use lots of methods...spanking, time outs, redirection. Do you think this causes confusion in a child? Don't you think you should do the same thing every time? Consistency is the key to good parenting!

Nothing I do ever works twice, so I am continually improvising. Sometimes carrots, sometimes sticks, sometimes an artful combination of the two, directly crafted to suit the needs of the moment.

For me, being consistently engaged is the key.

Beige2Tan: Wow...nicely said.

9-04-13 1:42  •  MY Truth and Variations in Human Perception

MetalMom: You act like there is only ONE version of the truth! But people's perceptions are so different, how could the truth be the same for everyone?

I know everyone's perception is different because of brain wiring and outside influence, so I don't want to try to make anyone else agree with MY truth.

People's perceptions may be somewhat different but they don't seem to be substantively different. I don't see how humans could, say, run an international airport if everyone had drastically different perceptions of reality. It just takes too much agreement on the relationships of space, time and matter to make something that complex work.

I would say that anyone who is able to catch an airplane has a similar enough perception of reality to everyone else to get the job done.

This is why I don't think each person has a "MY" truth and it's different from everyone else. Objects in earth's gravity well fall at 32.2'/sec˛-drag and it doesn't matter who you are. This "truth" is true enough for everyone, no matter what they think. That is the kind of truth I am interested in.

Of course, I wouldn't call it "Absolute Truth." As our instruments become more sophisticated we may find that objects actually fall at 32.222224590'/sec˛-drag. Accuracy can be increased. But our current understanding is plenty sufficient to make the calculations needed to properly fortify bridges and building foundations to support their materials, launch rockets, etc. The description of our observation of earth's gravity seems "true enough" for the moment.

So, "Absolute Truth" may be an illusion, but I am interested in ordinary truth that can be verified. I also think it is important to distinguish truth from speculation.

MetalMom: By "MY truth", I don't mean scientific facts. I just mean the way I percieve things...like my philosophies and opinions and stuff.

Then why use the word "truth"? Wouldn't "philosophies and opinions and stuff" be more accurate? What is the "truth" part?

MetalMom: I agree with you that all human perception is similar....but within human perception, there is a LOT of variance.

Like what for example?

MetalMom: My genetics, life experience, etc. causes me to choose certain opinions and philosophies that work for me.

Undoubtedly this is the case and I do not dispute it. However I am disputing that it is correct to use the word "truth" to describe opinions and philosophies, especially since we have words like "opinions" and "philosophies" to cover those internal conclusions which cannot be verified.

Particularly in religious discussions, I think stretching "truth" to cover "opinions" dilutes the meaning of "truth." I have found that many religious people use the term "truth" to describe their opinions to attempt to lend them weight, but they are are still just opinions. However since they have conflated whatever they happen to think with "truth," there is no word left to describe that which exists apart from opinions. It complicates the discussion.

In the interest of accuracy and precision, I'm for a demarcation between "truth" and "opinons and philosophies."

MetalMom: Your example of the airport doesn't really make me see that all perception is the same. There are MANY MANY people who could not work at an airport becaue their personality just doesn't make them able to function well in that environment...me for one.

I didn't say the same, I said sufficiently similar. And I didn't say work at an airport.

I said, if you can catch an airplane, your perception of space and time is probably not so different from others that you cannot have agreement about what can be verified as true.

In other words, I don't think human perceptions differ sufficiently to preclude the effort to determine what can be known to be true about reality.

MetalMom: Except that there do exist people who do not have the same perception of space, time and matter.

Yes, and there exist people who do not perceive sound, or light, or whatever. But that doesn't mean that normal people with normal perceptions cannot determine anything about sound or light just because some people are deaf or blind. Do we really have to consider that we can't understand sound just because some people cannot detect it with their ears?

MetalMom: My son for example...he has spatial reasoning issues. What he perceives apparently looks 'true' to him... but the kid cannot tell you which shape is larger if several are on a page...

Is he right? Are they actually the same size just because he can't tell which is larger?

The point is, normal people with normal perceptions have an extremely high degree of agreement on normal space-time relationships. Enough so that *almost* anyone can coordinate reality with total strangers sufficiently to catch an airplane and travel to where they want to go.

So, perceptions may be slightly different among normal people, and maybe they are very different when it comes to a few people with "disabilities," but I don't think they are SO different that there can be no understanding of what constitutes truth about reality as verified by observation.

Thanks for speaking with me MetalMom!

Freya:There is what there is and then there is our perception of what there is. Is truth the same as reality?

I consider "truth" to be an evaluation of statements. Is a particular statement true? This can be discovered by examining how closely the words of the statement correspond to the reality as can be determined by observation.

If the words accurately describe the reality the statement is "true." The statement could also be false, or it could be that the the truth of the statement cannot currently be determined.

MetalMom:I guess I'm just not explaining it right...which I haven't been able to do very well lately LOL. I don't think my opinions themselves are truth. My brain-wiring that brings me to those opinions is what I'm referring to. The way I am is my truth.

Metal, you are explaining it fine. I understand what you are saying. I agree that this is how people are, etc. What I am disagreeing with is that the word "truth" is a good choice to describe the nature of one's personal perspective. Particularly in the context of your original statement: I know everyone's perception is different because of brain wiring and outside influence, so I don't want to try to make anyone else agree with MY truth either.

I see religious people use this all the time to suggest that whatever they happen to think is "their truth" and therefore in some way "true." However the word "truth" implies that there is some correspondence to reality.

I understand that's not what you mean, but over many years of religious discussion I have become a stickler about using the word "truth" to describe a correspondence to reality. Using it to describe our inner states and personal perspectives and ways of thinking just muddies the waters in trying to find what is actually true and what isn't.

And, it's not necessary - "my personal perspective" works just fine.

Use words however you want of course, this is just something which I have learned causes a lot of confusion in religious discussion.

MetalMom:I also think certain philosophies fit certain people because that's how their personality is. So while a philosophy is not a universal truth, it can be true for an individual person.

This is what I mean. The idea "The Moon is made of green cheese" is not true for anyone, no matter what their brain wiring does. If someone thinks it is "true for them" they are simply incorrect. This is part of the confusion created by "true for me" statements.

Also, unfortunately, people apply "This is true for me" to all kinds of proposals which, if actually true, would be true for everyone. That's another part of the problem with using it this way.

MetalMom: There are people who could not catch a plane, or be at an airport too...because of any number of issues they have with either the airport, the plane, the number of people, or flying itself.

I don't think there is any indication that this means they are sensing something fundamental about reality that other humans can't sense.

MetalMom: We usuallly write these people off as nuts and don't count them as being within "normal" human perception....but I think we are probably missing some perceptions that could help us understand things better by writing off people who are drastically different from us.

Now I certainly am not trying to "write off" people who are differently-abled, or suggest there is nothing that can be learned from them. I am saying that the presence of some people who are different does nothing to negate the conclusions of our normal sense data.

I'm not trying to pick on your kid here, but since you brought up this example I hope you won't mind if I use it.

I don't think there is any evidence that people who can't tell which shape is larger are actually living in an alternatively-geometried non-Euclidian universe where the shapes are truly the same size. I think the shapes are actually two different sizes and they just can't tell.

It's easy enough to show who is right. Grab a ruler. No matter what the person sees, measuring those shapes with a ruler will show which is larger.

Sense data which is correct can be confirmed by measuring or other observations. It may not be perfect, but if it wasn't close enough we would not be able to use measurement to build things that fit together.

MetalMom: No matter what our perception is though, and whether it is similar or not, we can't know if human perception is reality or if we just evolved to see things a certain way because it kept us alive.

I disagree. We can find out if our perception is sufficiently similar to reality by checking.

MetalMom: We see things how we do because it keeps us alive, not necessarily because that's how the universe is.

Then why does it work? If our perceptions of reality are all different, and not representative of actual reality, how are we able to have an airport? How can we make planes that stay in the sky? How can we build terminals that stay standing? How can we arrange schedules that (more or less) get people to their connecting flights? How can thousands of people who don't know each other coordinate to get where they want to go? Airports are complex systems which require huge amounts of agreement on the truth about reality. There is no way they could work if our sense data was betraying us.

"How we see things" may be different from "how they are" but obviously we see things "good enough" to shape this reality to our design.

Here is the point, and why I feel so passionately about these distinctions.

Religious people very often say there can be no dispute of religious ideas because "everybody's truth is different." I think this is a dodge. There is no evidence that some people are "differently-truthed." There appears to be one actual reality which applies to every person no matter how they sense it or describe it. "Truth" is how we describe statements which can be shown to correspond to the actual reality. If the ideas don't correspond, they aren't true, and using the word truth indescriminantly makes it harder to draw this distinction.

For example, just because a lot of people think "Jesus died for our sins" is some kind of personal truth doesn't mean there is actual correspondence in reality for that statement - not for everyone, and not even for them, no matter how fervently they wish it to be true. There is exactly zero evidence that this statement corresponds to anything in actual reality. There appears to be no truth to it.

Particularly since, if true, it would be true for everyone, I think lending the weight of "truth" to this idea is completely unwarranted. This is why I dispute the use of "my truth" to describe inner states, and the idea that differences in our perception mean that sense data is not dispositive in assessment of truth.

I realize this is somewhat different than what you were saying, so thanks again for giving me a springboard for describing this.

MetalMom: One obvious example is good vs. evil. We percieve good vs. evil because things labeled "evil" should be avoided to stay alive and things labeled "good" are things that help us survive. Beyond that, though, I do not think good and evil exists outside our brains. I think everything is just neutral.

I agree that things are neutral, but I would not say we "perceive" good or evil. We perceive things that occur and the "good" or "evil" judgement is a label which we then apply to what we have perceived.

Emily:Who was it who said that the truth of our perceptions is that they work -- that they get us through the day alive and well (most of the time)? That we would have gone extinct if we had really warped perceptions of reality? I wish I could remember the name.

I don't know who said it but since this is quite similar to what I'm trying to say, thanks Emily for bringing it up!

MetalMom: Well, if you don't like the word truth, then just take that part out. LOL Its not like I was wording my reply to be the start of a huge drawn-out discussion :)

Well, I love huge drawn-out discussions about the nature of truth. It's one of my pet interests, you might say, so again, thanks for letting me springboard off your ideas. :-)

MetalMom: Who's to say that "normal" is the best way to percieve reality?

Well, you were the one who said that some people can't ride in an airplane or even be at an airport because of their "issues." How is that supposed to be better?

It's not a popularity contest. "Normal" perceptions are not better just because they are the most common. They are better because they work better. Generally speaking, they can make things work in ways that people who don't have them can't make things work.

MetalMom: Are you sure?

Of what? That sense data can be measured and used to create objects which fit together? I would say that since it works, we are probably not too far off. I would add that there is plenty of evidence to support this and none I'm aware of to the contrary. So, I would say I am reasonably sure. Of course, "reasonably sure" is about as sure as I am of anything.

Reasonably sure certainly seems to be good enough to work.

MetalMom: I think it is possible there are multitudes of other things going on in our universe and even all around us that we cannot percieve because we simply have no need to....or possibly even because it would be detrimental for us to know about them.

Possibly, or perhaps we don't sense them because it just didn't work out that way. Oh, I'm sure there are lots of things going on that we cannot perceive with our senses alone or at all, particularly in the electromagnetic spectrum. But that doesn't mean that what we are perceiving is not a reliable guide to reality. Our senses seem to be of actual value in allowing us to detect what is around us in meaningful ways. We are not getting everything, but we're not getting nothing or just arbitrary stuff either. There is correspondence.

MetalMom: You can't check "reality" unless you can percieve without human influence...as I said.

What do you call measuring and comparing and confirming and using the conclusions to build things that work? Again, I think we can be reasonably sure that our checking is revealing a corresponence to reality because of what our understanding allows us to do.

MetalMom: Everyone might see a different variation of color and we woudln't know...because everyone was raised to call a certain color "red" doesn't mean they are seeing the exact same shade of red.

I've seen this suggested before and of course it's possible, but I don't see how this is a substantive difference. It is a source of exactly zero conflict. Whatever it "may" look like, there is no disagreement at all in this world that THIS is red and THAT is blue. Even the colorblind are not arguing that the colors aren't "really" what we say they are. Given how ready people are to fight about anything, I'd say any difference that we cannot even find a way to disagree about is not substantial enough to matter.

MetalMom: My computer is not red. It just reflects red light and absorbs the rest. Its an illlusion that my computer looks like it IS red.

The "red" might be illusion, but your computer is made from specific materials which reflect that part of the spectrum and not others. There is correspondence between seeing different colors and the objects being made of different things. It's not arbitrary.

P.S. BTW, a red computer? Stylin'!

9-04-13 11:42  •  God...or Not

Dr. Dee: Reality exists regardless of the thought processes going on inside our heads.

I would agree with this entirely.

Dr. Dee: God is either out there or not. The Catholics either have things figured out or they don't.

I understand what you mean but I don't really agree with either of these statements. I think both positions could be more nuanced.

For one thing, what people mean by "God" is unclear. There could be things "out there" that some would consider a "God" and others wouldn't. For example, there could be something in existence which deists might consider God - some kind of Prime Mover - but others might not consider that "God" because it doesn't answer prayers or arrange our accomodations for the afterlife, etc.

For another thing, why have "the Catholics" either figured it out or not? They could be spot-on right about one thing and completely wrong about everything else, they could be about half-right, etc. I don't see how it's either/or.

Dr. Dee: The last thing I expected was disagreement about that! Whatever God is - God is either out there or not.

I still disagree. There could be things out there which some might think are God but are not actually God. For example, suppose there are advanced aliens who can affect life on earth. They can hear prayers and influence our reality in response using a ray. So when people have their prayers answered, they think it's "God" doing it. But, these aliens didn't create the universe. They evolved a long time ago from single-celled organisms just like we did. So are they God or not?

Similarly, there could be "godlike beings" in this universe who are completely unaffilated with our planet and have nothing to do with it. They didn't make it, they don't come here. Do they count as God?

The possibilities of the utter unknown "out there" are just so endless that I don't see how it is either/or.

Dr. Dee: My opinion is that all religions have some understanding of God but that none of them get it all correct.

All religions? Does that include Scientology?

Dr. Dee: Yes, I bet there are some (likely very small) things that Scientology gets right.

Well now, saying "They may be right about something" is waaay different from saying "...all religions have some understanding of God but that none of them get it all correct."   It could very well be that a religion is right about one thing - say, an injunction to be kind to others - and still be completely incorrect in every single posit they make about God, starting with the posit that there is one.   Perhaps the atheist is correct after all, and if that is the case then religions do not have any understanding of God at all.

It's polite and very ecumenical to grant "all religions" some "understanding" of God, but there is no reason to think it is actually true. They could all be flat wrong.  

So, I don't see how posits which could just as easily be wrong count as actual understanding.    How can you distinguish "understanding" from "imagining"?

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