9-20-13 11:07Arm Not Healed By God

Tara: Do you wake up each morning and thank the Lord that you had a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head? Did you thank the Lord for all the blessings he sheds upon you daily?

It's important for me not to take anything for granted. I try to appreciate the simple beauty of just having a home and a wonderful family all the time.

But I don't thank God for it. My husband works his ass off, that's why we have a home. When I feel gratitude, I try to express it to him.

I don't see how "God" could be responsible for our home. And even if He is, why us? Our spiritual practice doesn't even have a diety. And why not so many others? I don't see why "God" would give us a home and the guy by the freeway is holding a sign that says, "Homeless - Help - God Bless."

It makes no sense.

Tara: We ourselves do not establish the standards of what is right........... Only the Creator of all reality can do that.

How do you know what "God's standards" are?

Tara: My faith in God!

What I mean is, how does the information come to you? Does it just occur to you inside your head? Or are you using the Bible to spell out God's standards, or what?

How are we to discern exactly what the standards God established are?

Tara: Through a relationship with Jesus and prayer.

How does the information come to you? Does it just appear in your head or what?

Tara: Yes, it does............. Jesus makes it known unto you.

Are you sure you are getting the right information in your head? Can you give an example of what this is like?

Tara: God speaks. He speaks BUT He is not speaking today as so many claim.

This seems to contradict what you said earlier. Does the information come into your head today or not?

Tara: Rather God is speaking to us through His word ...

Are you referring to the Bible?

Tara: Yes, but it's not just that.

What I'm trying to determine is if you consider the Bible to contain God's immutable moral standards.

Tara: I have actual conversion with God through prayer and he places these desires inside me and I am still and listen.

There are a lot of people who claim this. Some of them are claiming that God is telling them things which are very different from what other people are claiming. A friend of mine claimed God told her what to major in when she went to college. Andrea Yates said God told her to murder her all five of her children. When people claim God is telling them things and placing desires inside them, how do we know who is really getting God and who isn't?

Tara: Since you are so interested Raver, just ask Jesus to come into your life......

I have done this on more than one occasion. Nothing happened.

Tara: You don't understand what it's like to be a Christian and have God in your life! It's not a voice in your head. It is being provided for by the Lord. Since we became Christian, anytime we have had any trouble, we were provided for.

This has happened to us too, but we are not even Christian. And obviously not all Christians get provided for. Many homeless and destitute people are Christian. So if the housing is provided by God, why would God be providing it for us and not them?

Tara: I was told I could never get pregnant. My son is enough for me to believe that miracles still happen.

My son was born with a withered arm. We were told that he would require several surgeries and that it would probably never be normal, and that he would probably have to be trained to write with his left hand regardless of his natural tendencies.

However his arm amazingly has become almost normal, without surgery. Even his hand doctor couldn't believe it, and he called in a number of other specialists to examine it and learn about the treatment we used.

Several religious friends and family said it was God's doing. We never prayed. Technically speaking, we're more Buddhist than anything else. So why on earth would God do this for us? Especially when He ignores so many people who believe in Him with everything they've got?

Tara: You are not the first one to ask this question. There are always going to be bad things that happen to good people, that you ask why would God let this happen to them.

That is not what I am asking. What I'm wondering is why good things always happen to us, seemingly miraculously, when we are not worshippers.

Tara: I don't know why He healed your son. God works in mysterious ways.

Of course. The get-out-of-explanation-free card. But there is at least one other possible explanation. Perhaps it was not God.

I mean, are you sure it must have been God's doing?

Tara: So whose doing is it Raver??

Since we had the finest doctors, a great physical therapist, and since I was the one who stretched and exercise his hand and arm every day for months, I would say it is our doing.

Tara: Maybe it wasn't God, but then again, maybe it was.

If it's impossible to tell I don't think it really makes a difference either way.

Tara: The miracles back in the day couldn't happen now.

Is there something fundamentally different about now? What could it be?

Tara: People would totally freak out...

I wouldn't freak out. God should just trust me.

Tara: Or if they saw someone part a sea or if water was turned into wine, they would think it was just a good magicians trick.

Maybe it was just a good magicians trick back then.

Tara: If God didn't heal your son then who was it?

Perhaps it was not any "who." Or perhaps it was the actual people in Neo's life who did the actual work.

Tara: Every breath you take is given to you by God alones will.

Some people certainly think that. However when the breath is examined, it appears to be the result of autonomic nerve functions. When the air I breathe is examined, it appears to have been created by the respitory functions of carbon dioxide-consuming organisms.

Tara: what directs thoughts?

They appear to be the result of electrical activity in the neocortex.

Tara: Where do you get your emotions from?

They appear to be result of electrical activity in the neocortex and the limbic system.

Tara: Why aren't we like robots, never feeling love or joy?

Because, for mammals at any rate, that would not work. It seems to work okay for insects, fish and most reptiles and amphibians however.

Linnette: I've had some good fortune. My mother says it's God's doing.

But it makes me feel narcissistic to think that God helps me and not others. What kind of God would do this? Is it really Him?

There are so many things that happen and have happened which just cannot be reconciled with a benevolent, omniscient deity. People twist themselves in knots trying to come up with a logic that explains how God could be in charge of everything and still have things be the way they are.

However, humans do have a very strong tendency to ascribe agency where none exists, and to feel they are watched even when there is no observer. It may be a result of millions of years of jungle life where humans had to be alert for the presence of hostile predators at every second.

This explains why humans tend to attribute fortune, both good and bad, to "Him."

Tara: If I am wrong i will go nowhere (according to you)... .but if you are wrong you will be the one that suffers (not my words, but God's) It looks like you have more to lose than me here..................

Ah, Pascal's Wager. Gotta love it.

Since we are both people, I would say neither of us is different from the other in what we have to gain or lose.

9-17-13 11:07More Fun With Katy

(This conversation is continued from an earlier instalment here.)

Katy, thank you for speaking with me.

Katy: Maybe we make our own hell here on this earth.

Well I don't. If you are you should stop immediately.

Katy: I believe the bible to be true God's word.

Yeah, you believe a lot of stuff that is completely wrong.

Katy: You keep saying God does nothing. I Agree to disagree.

Of course. You have no choice because your position is utterly bankrupt.

Katy: I see life to be a miracle.

That is because you completely refuse to look at what it actually is.

Katy: I only believe in one God anyways. He is apart my life. God shows me the the truth.

That is why you are so confused.

Katy, you have always given me the opportunity to speak about my ideas and for that I am very grateful, so thank you.

Katy: I just mean, I have people in my family like this. The minute the world stops envoling around them. All Hell breaks out.

I'm sorry your family life is so difficult.

Katy:I believe in Heaven. It is going to be so much better here too :-)

If I were you I would live for now. You know, just in case.

Katy: What is the harm having a dream anyways? Who is hurting?

Obviously it is hurting you.

And, it is hurting our entire society for Christians to pretend Christianity is true and demand that society treat Christianity as true. It is robbing our entire society of reason.

It's as if society demanded that everyone act like your horoscope was true. It's insane. It is apropos of nothing. It is crippling our ability to reason our way out of our problems.

Katy: I cannot still wrap my mind around there is No Creator at all.

Kathy, the universe is not ordered by what you can wrap your mind around.

But, I think you could wrap your mind around this if you tried. It's not complicated. It is exactly what you see in front of you, this minute, this second, every second.

When people examine the universe - this is true for everybody, anybody, even you - they don't find creators or any evidence of creators. What they find is a dance of particles and forces which started this particular dance about 13.4 billion years ago.

The particles are amazing. They are sticky in some places and pushy in others, and this makes them fit together in all sorts of bizarre, complex patterns. The patterns around here are bizarre and complex enough to capture tiny packets of energy directly from the sun, and use the energy to make copies of themselves.

Once the copy machine is running, the patterns compete - and cooperate - to keep it going. Some of them compete and cooperate better with more neurons, and eventually the neurons notice this happening.

This is where we are now.

At least, almost. There are some neurons which kind of refuse to admit that this is what is happening. But, it's catching on.

Katy: There is nothing perfect in this world. too. This sounds to confusing to my mind too. ** I love everything about this world beauty.

Our world is beautiful, but that doesn't make it perfect, or created. It evolved full of life and you evolved to appreciate it because that makes human life more successful.

Katy: Even my children when they are sleeping are perfect too.

We love to watch our children sleeping because we evolved to make them safe. That does not make them perfect or created.

Katy: Everybody should show love to others. By our love, others will see God.

If only you could just show love to others and have them see just what is there, your love. Trying to drag "god" into this is smothering the love in stupid, ugly stories.

Aren't you tired of waiting, waiting for God to do something, waiting to go to Heaven?

Stop wasting your time on all those words, words, words and look at actual reality. Just look. This is Heaven, right now, right here. It's not perfect, but it's ours.

9-17-13 8:07Checks and Balances on Wealth

Hubby and I were discussing the mega-wealthy. I had mentioned that the mega-wealthy should have to pay a lot in taxes, so the money they are hoarding can be put back into society at levels where it will be spent in commerce transactions and can create value.

J added that progressive taxation is also important because the super-rich need to have some check placed upon their power.

This really got me thinking. As a "democracy," we usually place a lot of importance on checks to power. The branches of our government are supposed to be balanced so that power is shared, and cannot be concentrated into ever smaller groups of hands.

But there is no check in our system on the power of the super-wealthy. At the level of multi-billions, the numbers no longer represent purchasing power - they represent political power. The power to buy political parties and write legislation. The power to rule.

The wealthy may (or may not) have "earned" great wealth, but they certainly haven't been elected by the people whose lives their decisions affect. They act with great power, but they have no mandate. Their decisions affect everyone but they are not expected to act from any consideration other than their own narrow self-interest.

So my question is, should the mega-rich have checks and balances on their power? Or does the idea of checks and balances not apply to the power of wealth?

Amy P: No, there should not be checks and balances on personal finances.

Do you think having armies of lobbyists to write legislation to weaken regulations against your industry so that you can boost already large profits at the expense of others to be a matter of personal finances?

Amy P: No, I don't consider that personal finances.

Well that is what I am talking about.

Amy P: I'll never be in favor of someone saying, "Okay, you have 100,000 in your bank account, we'll just take the rest so you don't blow it on something stupid."

Do you really think this is the only possible proposal in considering checks on mega-wealth? Last I heard, a paltry hundred thousand dollars was not considered mega-wealthy. This seems like an absurd reduction.

Amy P: Would you want the gov't tell you that you can't do X because you have too much money?

If X was going to negatively impact millions of people, I would hope that there would be some way to prevent it. Should wealth buy the power to do anything one wishes?

Amy P: No, it shouldn't. But we already have regulations for corporations and the wealthy. Of course, it would be nice if people actually paid attention to those regulations instead of ignoring them, but the regulations are there.

Why don't people pay attention to the regulations?

Amy P: People don't pay attention to the regulations because no one enforces them.

Why does no one enforce them?

Amy P: I guess the super wealthy do have the power to influence gov't. But if Congress actually paid attention to its constituents instead of lobbyists, that's a better solution than interfering in someone's personal finances.

How do you propose to make that happen?

Amy P: Nothing will happen as long as voters allow politicians to keep their jobs, even if they ignore the wishes of their constituents.

If the incumbents were turned out, do you think the "new" politicians would heed the constituency over the lobbyists and big campaign contributors better than the "old" politicians?

Amy P: Now that you mention it, I guess not. I wonder why politicians are so lame at enforcing the regulations already on the books.

It's because the mega-wealthy are buying them off to look the other way while they loot society. This is what their unchecked power is buying.

Waiting for a "different" politician to act better in the current system is not the solution. We need to fix the system, by imposing checks on the power of wealth. Progressive taxation is one of these; getting money out of politics with publicly financed political campaigns would be another.

9-17-13 7:07Christ-Only Salvation

Evangelist Franklin Graham spoke one day. "I don't believe Muhammad can lead anyone to God, but salvation is through Christ alone," he told reporters outside the Cannon House Office Building caucus room. "I don't accept this notion that all roads lead to God."

Do most Christians agree with this?

InChrist:Every Christian believes the only way to salvation is through Christ alone.

I know some Unitarian Universalists, and many individual Christians, who would disagree with this.

InChrist: It's not ignorant or disrespectful to proclaim this, it's what the Bible says to do.

Perhaps the Bible says to do something that is ignorant or disrespectful.

InChrist: The truth is harsh sometimes, and there's no way it can be told without some opposition or offending someone.

How have you determined that "Salvation through Christ alone" is the truth? Perhaps the Hindus are correct.

InChrist: Because it's what the Bible says.

How have you determined that the Bible is correct? Perhaps the Upanishads are more accurate.

BethTX: In our Christian Holy Book, The Holy Bible, Jesus states; "I am *the* way. *the* truth and *the* light, no one comes to the Father except by me". John 14:6

It is pretty clear to me that all Bible believing Christians would share Mr Graham's beliefs. It is not fun to hear or maybe even "nice" but that is what we believe.

If you don't like it why do you want it to be true?

BethTX: It is our belief. I don't have a problem with it.

You don't have a problem with every Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, etc. on the planet going to Hell?

BethTX: Of course I have a problem with that.

Then why do you want it to be true?

BethTX: I don't decide truth. One does not have to like the truth to know it is true.

How have you determined that this is true? It could be incorrect. Perhaps Hindu beliefs are a more accurate description of what occurs after death.

BethTX: Well then I guess I was wrong. All of us could be wrong.

I'm trying to avoid the whole "could be wrong" thing by not making any claims about the unknown. Why bother making claims that could be wrong?

BethTX: I know it is true, because of my belief. You may not understand it, but I feel it.

Hindus believe something too. They know it is true, because of their belief. You may not understand it, but they feel it, exactly as you do. Only their belief doesn't say anything about Salvation through Christ.

How have you determined that their feelings are wrong and yours are right?

BethTX: I have already said, if they are right, then I am wrong, but that does not mean that I am wrong.

Let's just suppose you are correct. What I am wondering is, why would Hindus be getting the most important thing in the universe so wrong? Why do their feelings betray them and yours don't? They are simply growing up in a culture and believing their religious content in the same manner that you are. Why do their feelings tell them nothing of the truth you know? Is their feeling capacity impaired? Do they deserve Hell for feeling what they feel?

BethTX: I don't think Hinduism is more wrong then any other religion not following Jesus....

Yes, but Hinduism is even older than Christianity. Hindu people feel their faith is true just as much as you feel your faith is true. How is it that you able to tell what is the right faith but they all are just so wrong?

Trish: I don't owe ANYONE the obligation of acknowledging other faiths as equal.

Why do you suppose Hindus have a lesser religion? Defective?

Trish: Why would you ask me this?

I would like to know what "Salvation Through Christ Alone" believers make of the fact that there is this huge, other religion which doesn't mention Jesus. How could an entire sub-continent of people be so blind to the Christian truth? Are they spiritually defective?

Trish: Who cares?

People who care about other human beings in addition to Christians.

Trish: Are you suggesting that I (or salvation through Christ alone Christians) don't care about other people?

You are the one who said "Who cares!" when I asked about them. Are you saying that you now do care?

Trish: I don't know every individual person's reason. But I do know that what a person does with the truth of Jesus is personal.

Do you think that each individual person in India has failed to recognize the truth of Jesus?

Trish: This is SO not for me to say.

Why? Isn't it the only possible conclusion if Salvation is through Christ only?

Trish: How can you claim every person in India is Hindu?! There are Christians in India.

Sorry, I should have said "Hindu people in India." But is that really the point? The vast majority of people in India are Hindu. My question is, why? Are they just so blind to "the truth" that they don't get it or what? Is their culture defective? Are they lacking in spiritual sense? Why do millions of Hindus pick the wrong religion?

Trish: The choice is still ours...not our parents...not our culture.

So do you think every person who chooses to be Hindu has specifically rejected Jesus? If Jesus wants to be inclusive, why can't He forgive Hindus for making the wrong choice?

Trish: If you would just google you would find that 2.3% of the people in India are Christians.

I understand. But you could substitute in people of any other religion - Buddhist, Shinto, Muslim, etc. and ask this question of "Salvation through Christ only" Christians.

Why can't God forgive people for being the wrong religion?

I know several Hindu people. They were raised in their beliefs and find them to hold just as true for them as Christians do. They don't seem to be feeling any spiritual void. They aren't looking for a way to become better connected to God - as far as they can tell they already are connected.

So why are they so wrong about this? If Christianity is the correct religion, how come literally millions of people are Hindu or etc instead? Are they just so out of it they can't appreciate Jesus the way Christians do, or what? How could so many millions of people be so spiritually blind?

BethTX: Jesus...wow...He loved everyone. He died for everyone. That's pretty inclusive.

Then how come only people with certain thoughts get salvation?

BethTX: It isn't about thoughts. It is choice.

Why would Jesus die for everyone, only to turn away billions of Hindus at the gates of Heaven, just because their parents taught them to worship a being called Ganesh or Krishna instead of one called Jesus Christ?

Why do Hindus make the wrong choice? Are they bad? Blind? What is wrong with them?

Trish: You have to acknowledge a wrongdoing to receive forgiveness.

First of all, since when? I forgive my children for wrongs they don't understand or acknowledge all the time. I have no trouble forgiving people who wronged me, whether they acknowledge it or not.

Second of all, how is a Hindu supposed to know he is wrong? He is living the content of his faith in the same way a Christian does. He is doing his best to observe his moral structure like most other people. He feels the connection to the Divine in his heart, feels the reverance of worship in his spiritual practice. When he prays, he feels his prayers are heard and considered the same way a Christian does.

What exactly is the wrong-doing part?

Muslimom: You asked, "How is a Hindu supposed to know he is wrong?" they have a moral internal compass and they always have the option to consult the One God for guidance just like any other human being.

I asked how a Hindu is supposed to know he is wrong to be Hindu. Are you saying that a moral Hindu would look at Hinduism with his moral internal compass and decide it is immoral, and that is how he would know it is wrong?

Does this mean that Hindu people who examine Hinduism and decide to stay Hindu are immoral?

Trish: We all fall short in God's eyes. Can you name one person...anyone at all who can "LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND?" Can anyone do this? Of any faith?

As far as I can tell, everyone can.

Trish: You say, you can forgive your children, so why can't God? It wouldn't be good. Just like forgiving our oblivious children...if I forgive and forgive...

First of all, I'm not talking about "forgive and forgive," I'm talking about God forgiving people for being the wrong religion ONE time, at the end of life, so they can spend the afterlife in Heaven instead of Hell. Surely God could find it in His heart to forgive each person once.

Trish: ....but make no attempts to have my children see what they've done wrong, their need for forgiveness and hopefully a desire to change...

Second of all, how is simply being Hindu (or etc.) instead of Christian doing wrong? Even if Hinduism is incorrect and Christianity is correct, it would have been an honest mistake. As far as they are concerned, they were practicing their faith with their heart just like a Christian does. It's not harming anyone. Why should they think they need forgiveness when they have done no harm?

As far as my forgiveness goes, when it comes time for my 100th birthday party, I don't care what mistakes my children have made, what good advice of mine they ignored, and what crazy ideas they chose to follow instead of mine...I can forgive them for everything at least enough to invite them to join the party with everyone else. They don't have to change their minds and start towing my line or admit that I was right all along. They can just come in.

Why would a loving God would exclude any of His children from the big party at the end?

InChrist: Why do people keep bringing up the Hindus specifically? They are no different than any other religion that doesn't believe in Jesus.

If they are no different, then why not?

Trish: I don't know anything for sure. But this kind of stuff...implying that people are bigots or arrogant because their faith claims one way to salvation, is literally stomping on religious freedom, and who says YOU get to decide what is stomp-worthy?

Then why do you say this:

"I don't owe ANYONE the obligation of acknowledging other faiths as equal." Who says YOU get to decide that their faith is inferior to yours?

Trish: I don't owe anyone the obligation of believing all faiths have equal access to salvation.

You said yourself you don't know. Why bother declaring all non-Christians to be hellbound when you don't know?

Trish: I know what the bible says and I choose to believe it.

Why do you want it to be true?

Trish: I'm done. Until I see some sort of concession on freedom of religious thought...

So, asking you questions is stomping on your religious freedom of thought, but calling Hindus wrong and unqualified for salvation is not stomping on their religious freedom of thought? Both are just words, and I don't see either one doing anything to actually restrict freedom of religious thought.

Trish: ...I am not interested in continuing.

Suit yourself. Perhaps another time.

9-16-13 5:07Our Perceptions

Seven: Haven't you ever seen The Matrix? We dont know for sure what is outside of what we perceive. We have empirical evidence yes, but its all based on our perceptions - which may very well be flawed.

Our perceptions may very well be flawed, but if so, they are sufficiently accurate, or flawed so similarly in everyone, that we are able to agree on them. For example, I seriously doubt that we could, say, run an international airport, with all the traffic coming and going, planes taking off and landing, all the people, all the baggage, etc, if everyone had a completely different or distorted perception of reality. It just takes too much precision and cooperation.

Taken a step further, suppose we really are living in a Matrix-type computer-generated reality? If so, we are still inside a reality that is sufficiently regular and similar for everyone to agree that it has specific rules, ie, the laws of physics. Whatever it is we are really perceiving, it still the same to everyone that an object which is dropped will fall at approximately 32'/sec^2 - drag. We can still use the predictive power of that knowledge to make things work.

Taken to the extreme (which people do, often) you might wonder if anything outside yourself really exists at all, and you are alone in the universe just imagining the entire reality. But the ride to solipsism is a boring one. If everything you perceive has NOTHING to do with a reality outside yourself, then there is no point in further speculating about anything. Conversation ends.

I'm a pragmatist. That thing over there looks like a tree to me. If you think that maybe there's not a tree, it's just you "perceiving" a tree, and your perceptions are flawed, you are welcome to run towards it head first and see if you actually hit anything or not. :-)

Physical reality has a way of asserting itself. If your perceptions are sufficiently accurate to keep you from running into trees, they are probably not too far off.

Seven: Well...there is a certain amount of "faith" in empirical evidence.

Only if you insist on absolute certainty. If you are willing to live with "seems to be" then apparent empirical evidence is good enough. You can evaluate it, and use the results of your evaluations, without believing your conclusion is absolutely certainly true.

9-17-13 4:20Zeitgeist and Controlling the World

Seven: Do you think there is a secret conspiracy using religion and money to control the world, like in that movie Zeitgeist? Are we at risk of being controlled?

Prompted by similar questions, I actually sat down and watched the whole thing several years ago. In addition to the first section about Christianity co-opting previous religious ideas, there was also a section about unanswered 9-11 questions, and one about how moneyed interests are manipulating the economy and the government.

Ultimately it came down to a big conspiracy theory, about how a tiny number of powerholders are using religion, nationalism and money to control the world. It kinda reminded me of my dad ranting against the Trilateral Commission - vaguely paranoid, and ultimately drawing a lot of conclusions from not much evidence.

No doubt, moneyed interests ARE trying to control the world, but I don't think it's a secret, coordinated conspiracy. There are plenty of moneyed interests trying to control the world right out in the open, like Bill Gates trying to control the world's computer infrastructure, or Sam Walton trying to control the supply chain of the world's consumer goods.

So, the film was thought provoking but I'm not sure I buy all the conclusions.

Also, there is a very easy way to slip out of the traps and controls that religion, nationalism and money present. This can be done by practicing non-attachment. Religions can only control your mind if you long for what they are promising and fear what they are threatening. Nationalism can only stir you to war if you cling to the idea that the people of your country are factually superior to, or at least, separate from, the rest of humanity. And the moneyed interests can only manipulate you if you play their game by striving to acquire ever larger quantities of wealth.

In other words, some people may be trying to control the world, but it is easy to slip out of their traps if you are not grasping after the bait.

Alex: Check out the movie "A Case for Christ" and then talk. There is overwhelming evidence that God does exist.

I don't see why I should be expected to accept "evidence of God" in place of actual God.

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