10-05-13 4:07Perfect Body in Heaven

Jolene: I do know that God will give us a PERFECT body free from any pain and suffering and the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the cripple will walk the mentally challenged will be trasferred into a new body....................that's about as good an answer i can give at this moment.

To be honest, I had never heard it explained this way before and it is raising way more questions than it answers. If God is going to pass out "perfect" bodies, will fat women be made skinny? Will 98-pound weaklings be made buff? How buff? Buff like Russel Crowe in Gladiator or buff like Arnold Schwarzenager in Conan?

Will the short be made tall? How tall...what is the "perfect height"? Is everyone the same height in Heaven?

Will frizzy hair be made silky smooth? Will flat-chested women be made busty or vice-versa? Will the light-complected be made darker or the dark-complected be made lighter - what is the "perfect" skin color?

Does it have to be a body? As long as we are talking perfect, I'd just as soon ditch the body altogether and exist as a superintelligent shade of the color blue. Is that possible?

10-04-13 4:07Wizards in the Closet

Hermione: I can't believe you think the Harry Potter movies are better than the books! In my opinion everything J.K. Rowling does is perfect.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the books and the movies. They each have unique aspects not present in the other. But when it comes to Harry Potter, there is one aspect to whole concept that really makes no sense and I think sends a bad message.

Why on earth are the magical folk required to keep themselves secret? Early on, Hagrid makes some kind of offhand remark about how non-magical folk would be wanting magical solutions to their problems. But that's ridiculous. It's like saying that rich people should keep their wealth a secret so that they would never be asked to contribute to charities. They can always say "no," right? Or, they could find it in their hearts to use their special resources to help the less fortunate.

Here are some other reasons why it's lame:

1) Trying to keep their entire world hidden at any cost is taking way more effort than it's worth. They're always on the verge of blowing it and having to scramble madly to cover up the truth.

2) Erasing Muggle memories is unethical! What gives them the right to screw with people's heads!?

3) How do they deal with non-magical relatives, like Hermione's parents? Lie to them? Make them sign a non-disclosure agreement? How could they be sure no one would ever blab?

4) Magical folk are being made to live a lie. That's like telling gay people they have to stay in the closet. People should be what they are, openly, without having to fake a more acceptable public persona. Truth is truth and should not be covered up.

I know that Rowling was using this mainly as a plot device to create tension. But I think the "secret alternate life" idea is fundamentally dishonest and sends a message that the truth doesn't matter.

10-01-13 10:07Matters of Faith

Tara: Thank God I'm going to be with Jesus when I die!

You don't know that.

Tara: Yep, fortunate enough i do know that. Positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt....I know i will spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven!

No one really knows. You are pretending to know.

Tara: I DO know that i will spend eternity with Jesus. I am not pretending anything.

Well, perhaps you are just incorrect about knowing then.

It's not a matter of opinion. What, if anything, happens "after death" is unknown. You are no more of an authority on this than any other person. If no one knows, that includes you.

Tara: God promised me by his word and the free gift that Jesus Christ has given to all!

That's what some people say, but they don't know any more about it than you or I do.

Tara: Jesus said it, and Jesus can not lie. It is impossible.

No one knows what is possible or impossible for Jesus. But, that's just what someone says Jesus said. That may not be what Jesus said, or that may not be what he meant, or it could be a mistranslation. Just because someone wrote that Jesus said it doesn't make that writer any more of an expert on it than you are.

Tara: I can promise you that i will be in Heaven when i die.....

You are not the expert on what happens to people when they die. Unless you have some way to demonstrate that this is the case there is no reason to believe that you are correct.

Tara: It's faith! How does anyone know that their spouse is not going to cheat? How does anyone know that their friend is going to be there during the hard times?

You take these things on faith because you trust the relationship you have with them.

Sometimes your trust is warranted. Other times it is not. Some spouses do cheat even when they are trusted. Trust is great but it doesn't make you right. Trusting is not the same as knowing. What I said was that no one knows.

Mazzy: I know! For myself, I have no doubt whatsoever where I'm going!

I'm sorry to hear that. A lack of doubt is extremely limiting and deprives you of a potent tool of intellectual discernment.

Jadzia:Why are you sorry?

Because I have found a lack of doubt to be a major failing in some of the most potentially adept intellects I have observed. It is very limiting.

Jadzia: This reads as if you're saying Mazzy is not intellectual if she has no doubt.

I do think Mazzy is intellectual. She is also smart, sweet, funny, observant and kind. Intellectual doubt would serve a great compliment to so rich a personality. But if she is lacking in doubt she is limiting herself from exercising a powerful intellectual tool.

Jadzia: I don't agree Mazzy is limiting herself.

I should clarify that I don't necessarily mean Mazzy in particular. Any intellect benefits from having a wide array of good intellectual tools at its disposal. Intellectual doubt is a magnificent tool of discernment and any well-rounded intellect would benefit from it.

Saying you don't need doubt is like saying you can do math without multiplication. Sure you can, but it's a lot better quality math with it. Doubt is a strong intellectual tool in this same fashion.

Aria: All Christians have doubt and have questions. That we come up with different answers from you should not negate the answers that we find.

I have no doubt that you find things. I dispute that what you have found constitutes answers.

Real answers about reality are not different for every person. Actual answers are what are really true for everybody. That is how answers differ from beliefs.

Aria: You seem quite sure of the path you are on.

That's great, because I checked it very thoroughly. In fact if there is any place my path fails to correspond with the landscape I welcome the opportunity to correct it.

But "the path" and "answers" are two different things. I do not recall claiming to have found "answers." Particularly not "answers" which are only true for me. I would not claim anything that was only true for me to be really, actually true.

Aria: Do you ever question your own version of reality?

Constantly. Incessantly. That is the entire point.

Aria: What questions do you have on the spiritual front?

What do you mean?

Aria: Do you deny all things spiritual?

I don't know what you mean by "all things spiritual." But, I have not denied anything spiritual. I don't make any claims or denials at all about the spiritual. I have denied only the assertion that someone "knows" something which cannot be known.

Jadzia: You have "no doubt" that they find things? Now who has no doubt? :-)

You are quite right, I should have said, "I don't dispute that they find things."

Aria: You don't demonstrate much doubt in your answers.

Not much is not none. And, I have stated that I use doubt as an intellectual tool and deploy it constantly in my quest for accuracy.

If you think I have made a mis-statement somewhere in my answers just tell me what you think it is and I'll consider what you find questionable about it.

Aria: In fact your answers have been becoming increasingly judgmental.

I disagree. I am always open to correction. For example, I considered Jadzia's suggestion that my assertion had been poorly phrased. I accepted her evaluation, I told her she had a good point, and I corrected my phrasing to be more consistent with my message.

In other words, I am willing to accept correction on any level and adjust for accuracy when necessary, just as I said I was.

Are you?

Aria: Ironic really since you seem to accuse Christians of being judgmental and unfair.


Aria: I wonder, do you respect Christians less because they don't adhere to your way of thinking?

I have examined many ways of thinking and I have found that they are not created equal. However, I don't respect or disrespect Christians as a class of people, or any other class of people. I try to conduct a respectful discourse with everyone. I respect ideas that are worthy of respect.

Mazzy:I see myself as having Faith that I know I am correct.

You cannot know that. Why try?

Mazzy:You see my not having a lack of doubt as something that hinders me.

I said it's a valuable tool. But you are smart, you probably employ intellectual doubt in other areas...like with salesmen. :-)

Mazzy: No matter what is said to me, I have my Faith and it will not change. Make sense?

No, not at all. Are you saying that you would never change it under any circumstances? What if it was shown to be wrong?

When I am shown that something I think is wrong I immediately change it. Would you not do that?

Mazzy: I do not know how it could be shown to me that there is no God. That is the bottom line.

Just because it is impossible to prove a negative doesn't mean the opposite is true. Not No-God doesn't = God.

Additionally, there are a great number of things that Not No-God doesn't equal either, like original sin, born of a virgin, died for your sins, was ressurected, Heaven, Hell, transubstantiation, Rapture, God Hates Fags, etc. I don't see how any of those things can be extrapolated simply from Not No-God.

In fact, there could actually be some kind of God and the rest of that stuff could still be a load of crap. The actual God might be Zeus or Thor or Ganesha or Baal or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Mazzy: That God is with me and when I die I will spend eternity with Him, isn't something I question.

Maybe you should. It wouldn't hurt.

Mazzy: What you have stated regarding my lack of doubt could very well be said about those who have no doubt there is no God.

Like who?

Tara: I gave my heart to Jesus and live by His ways. Unless I change my ways and such, I'm in. ;)

Only if it works exactly how you think it does instead of in any other way.

Mazzy: It's not that rigid. Faith is an extremely personal thing and a long time ago I realized that you don't have to fit neatly in a box to have faith.

Of course not. As long as it's faith you can make it be faith in whatever you like.

Mazzy: I don't believe that God turns people away when they have a true heart. I think he reaches out to them even in death.

It's nice that you think this. However it could be wrong. Some people say that is not how it works. They say you have to be saved or have something worked out with Christ, or else. However they could be wrong too.

There is no way to know who is right. Since you can't check, you can just believe whatever you think sounds good. Convenient, eh? Everybody gets to believe in what sounds good to them.

However all of it could be completely wrong.

So why bother?


Mazzy, I want you to know that we are getting into some very difficult areas here and I appreciate that you are taking the time to discuss this with me. You know that I respect you greatly for your smarts and your achievements. Please do not take what I am saying personally.

Mazzy:I don't pick and choose, I just know what is right for me, what is true for me.

That sounds like picking and choosing what is right for you, what is true for you.

Mazzy:Gays, as an example, I do not believe as most Christians do when it comes to gay people. I can't imagine God condemning them.

It sounds to me like you are picking some of the things you like, like a heavenly afterlife, and choosing to discard things you don't like, like condemnation of gays. It sounds to me like you are picking and choosing exactly what to believe. Not based on any evidence that says one proposition is true and the other is false...just based on what you personally think seems fair.

Mazzy: I have my beliefs and no one will ever change my mind on any of them.

It could happen. You could have a change of heart. Maybe there is something you consider a sin today that as you age, maybe it won't seem like such a bad sin, you think, maybe God understands. Your belief about some particular thing could change if your attitude about it changed.

Mazzy: "Like who?" I don't know of any one in particular, my statement was more of a general statement. Those who are sure there is no God, they have no doubt about it.........perhaps they should have some doubt as well.

They probably should but they are not here, I am not concerned with them.

Aria: It isn't that I think you have made a mis-statement, it is that I think you mis-perceive your stance as open and willing to change, yet your answers don't reflect that kind of openess.

Well, you never know until you try. Propose something. Support it. I would be thrilled to consider it.

Aria: You are judgemental about Christianity. Using words such as ridiculous, sucks, and unfair... those are judgment words that you have used in different posts.

Are you seriously saying that your religion proposes nothing which seems ridiculous, nothing which sucks, and nothing which seems unfair? Sorry, but Christianity does propose things like this and so do many other religions.

I try to use language which is extremely precise, reflective and courteous to conduct my conversations. I strive to refrain from personal attacks and unfavorable evaluations of character. However, I am using discernment to the highest possible degree that I am capable of, and if an idea seems ridiculous or sucky or unfair to me I am going to call it as I see it. Are you seriously suggesting I should do otherwise?

If you don't like that your religion has aspects which are ridiculous, which suck, and which are unfair, maybe you should look at why your religion is like that. Please don't expect me to gloss over the ridiculous, the sucky and the unfair because you don't like to have them pointed out.

Aria: But these types of discussions have no right or wrong answer because there can be no proof in any direction.

That is exactly the point. However the religious are routinely suggesting that there are right answers and that they have them. Do you expect me to just accept this, unquestioningly? For what reason?

Aria: You can no more prove that there is no god than I can prove that there is.

I never said that there was no god or tried to prove it. That is not what I am trying to do, so do not assign that position to me.

In any case, Not No-God does not automatically equal = Christianity is right.

Aria: We base our understanding on what we perceive to be real and we both have experiences that helped us come to our conclusions.

If I based my understanding only on what I perceive to be real I would have a very different understanding. Perceptions can be distorted and misled and misleading and misunderstood. That is why I base my understanding on what can be confirmed to be real. What cannot be confirmed I do not form conclusions about.

In fact I don't know why people do.

Aria: Do you ever feel the pull of something greater than you?

Absolutely. However, the "pull of something greater" than me does not equal = "humanity is inherently evil because Eve picked the wrong fruit and created original sin so a guy died a horrible death on a cross to give us a stepstool to reach heaven instead of hell in the afterlife." Just the presence of a "pull" does nothing to suggest any of the rest of that.

I make no assertions at all about what that "pull" means. But as for "something greater," I am obviously part of many things that are much greater than myself, such as the magnificent beauty of life in our unlikely little corner of the cosmos, the incredible success of the mammalian genotype, and the dazzling achievement of the human instantiation of that form, just to name a few. There is so much that is greater than myself that is immediately and obviously apparent to gaze and marvel in wonder at. I don't feel the need to add to it by making stuff up. I just feel it, as it is.

Aria: Do you ever question your purpose for life?

Sure. However, I have not found anything in the search for purpose which leads to the conlusion "God chose your purpose" or "Your purpose includes God."

As far as I can tell, life pre-dates purpose.

Aria: These are important questions for all humans regardless of religion. I am curious what your answers to the great questions are.

My answer is: This.

Aria: We all know the answer to the meaning of life...42!

Seriously. As far as I can tell, the great question is, What is this? As far as I can tell, the answer is, This.

Aria: As always I appreciate our discussions. Thanks for sharing.

I appreciate it too. Being able to discuss these matters in depth with a person of faith is a rare opportunity for me. I thank you.

Aria: "Why bother?" I bother because I believe these things to be true.

If you have reason for why you believe these things to be true, other than you would like it if they were true, I would love to hear it.

Aria: Jesus was kind and loving to ALL people he encountered regardless of their sin. This is the example I chose to live.

Sounds great. However there is nothing about this that requires faith.

Aria: Does it really matter how a person believes?

It does if you care about having your belief correspond with what is actual.

I think it matters a lot. Everyone gets to believe whatever they want about The Big Empty, and it's different for everyone, and no one can prove their bit. The result is unresolvable conflict.

Aria: Isn't it just important that I use my inspiration to find love and kindness in others?

You can use your inspiration for whatever you want. However the fact that you are inspired does not mean Christianity = real. For the sake of this particular discussion I am concerned with what is real.

Aria: Maybe it's convenient for me to believe he wouldn't turn anyone away who has a true heart, but that's what I honestly believe and unless God himself came down to tell me otherwise I will continue to believe it.

Feel free. But if you need God Himself to come down and explain something like that before you believe it, then why are you willing to believe the rest of it without His Divine Immediate Manifestation?

I know discussions of faith are not easy. Thanks monchiemom for discussing this with me.

Merica: You have judged Christianity as unfair. Do you seek answers to what you perceive as unfair or do you just stop there and let it remain as that?

I never stop. If there is more to it, then what is it?

Merica: I could explain, but I would expect you to remain open to the answers that are given.

I am open to any kind of answers. What answers do you have that you want me to consider?

Merica: My point is, you think you are equally as right as they are.

About what, specifically? I try to avoid unsupportable assertions. What do you think I am claiming to be right about?

Merica: You are using faith as much as they do. This brings me back to the poster who pointed out that you trust your husband to remain faithful to you.

I am not at all concerned with that. It is enough for me that he seems to be happy. If that changed, we could discuss what it means and what to do about it. I don't have to walk around "trusting" him to be comfortable. I am comfortable just being with him.

Merica: And Christianity (in particular) is based on a relationship with Christ. It makes as much sense to draw these conclusions as it does to trust your husband.

How so? My husband is not asking me to believe extraordinary unsupported claims.

Merica:What is it about Christianity that concerns you?

There is no way to examine the veracity of the claims.

Merica: Do you feel this way about other organized religions as well that claim to be the "true path"?

I am willing to evaluate the truth of any path that is presented to me and weigh it on its own merit, regardless of what religious tradition it hails from.

Merica: I can appreciate the fact that no one can provide proof that one religion is the one true religion. I just don't understand why that means people are wrong for believing in something.

I did not say it was wrong. I said it was unsupported. I do not understand why people choose to believe in their own particular unsupported thing that they like, instead of the unsupported conclusions of another.

The big problem with massive, unsupported conclusions is that they create unresolvable conflict. So why bother?

I really don't see what the rush to believe "something" is. What's wrong with "I don't know"?

Merica: You asked if there was some reason why I believe besides I would like it to be true. Unfortunately, I don't have any other reason.

If everybody just gets to believe what they like, then doesn't that say something about where the beliefs come from?

Merica: I don't believe I am wrong, but as much as I would like to I can't offer you the proof you seek.

I am not asking anyone to provide me with proof. I am aware that the proof does not exist. What I wonder is why people accept stuff without proof.

Merica: To some, it certainly is actual. No, I cannot invite God over to your house to prove him. But to me, he is actual.

If it's just "to you" that is not compatible with the definition of the word "actual."

Merica: Is there nothing you believe in that you can't prove?

I hope not. Nothing comes to mind.

Merica: I don't think I could ever give you an answer that would satisfy you, to be honest.

I am not looking for satisfying answers. I am looking for good questions.

Merica: Why do people accept these things without proof? Maybe because they want to.

Of course they do! But why? To what end?

Merica: I think for you it works that you only believe in the things you can touch. The things you can prove.

You are overstating my position. I don't have fixed "beliefs" in anything at all. However that which can be shown does not require "belief." It is manifest.

Merica: I happen to believe there is more.

Very possibly there is more. However people are not just saying, "More." They are saying "More = God" and "More = Jesus died for our sins" and "More = two opposing afterlifes." Some people are saying "More = women must wear burqas." Some people are saying "More = God Hates Fags."

People are drawing highly unwarranted conclusions about what "more" there might be out there and what it means. "More = God" is no more or less provable than "More = God Hates Fags." Since there is no way to check on what the "more" actually consists of, unresolvable conflict is the result.

Merica: You just keep insisting on proof! Why is the proof so necessary?

To avoid error. To find out what is actual.

But, as I said, though I would be thrilled if some came along, proof is not what I am looking for in a discussion of this kind. I am looking for ways to communicate about what is actual that everyone can understand.

Mazzy: I will not know if my truth is indeed false until I die.

Then why bother declaring it to be the truth now? Why is that necessary?

Mazzy: I don't believe it will turn out to be false, therefore I have no need to seek out any thing other than what I believe is true.

That seems limiting.

Mazzy: Yes, a man having sex with another man, or a woman with another woman, is a sin. However, to me, that sin is no more or less than any other sin. God is not going to condemn one who has love in their heart, even if they are sinning by having sex with the same sex.

There is no way to verify this. How are we supposed to know how God feels about gays if we can't check with Him? Since there is no way to know for sure, are we supposed to be factoring what God wants into our decisions about gays?

Clinging to the belief that God has a problem with homosexuality is creating a lot of unresolvable conflict in our society. This conflict is being used to throw elections by stirring up the anti-gay crowd to vote for anti-gay candidates whose other plans are just as screwey as their plans to prevent gays from marrying.

This unresolvable conflict is exactly the type of problem that religion creates by letting people just pick what they like and declare it "true."

Seasides: What do you mean, why believe? Why not?

1) Because it creates unresolvable conflict.

There is no reason to believe this guy's belief over that guy's belief. There is no support for any of it. There is no reason at all to choose "God = Love" and declare that correct and take "God Hates Fags" and declare that not correct. "God Hates Fags" is just as valid an interpretation as any other. When it's all a bunch of speculation and everybody gets to pick what speculation they want to buy into, how do you resolve the contradictions?

2) Because it undermines respect for what is actual.

If people think they can just believe whatever they want, with no regard for what seems to be the case or what can be demonstrated, then how do you get people to understand the difference between truth and made up stuff? People just walk around saying "Saddam had WMDs!" or "Global Warming is liberal propaganda!" and they do not understand that some things really are real and really can be shown to be the case.

3) Because it results in really stupid public policy decisions.

The Christian right came out in droves to vote for George W. Torturer because they believed that as a Christian he would do God's work and end abortion and gay marriage. Instead he declared war on the wrong country, rolled back seven centuries of established precedent by nulling habeas corpus, and looked the other way while robber barons looted the economy and melted the polar ice caps.

That's just one specific case, however. Whether it's dragging creation into the biology classroom, or teaching abstinence-only sex ed, or disenfranchising gays, or preventing stem cell research, or declaring "wine = good, pot = bad," there are millions of stupid policy decisions made daily by people who put what they think "God wants" over what works and what people actually need.

4) Because it cannot be reconciled with reality.

People made up a lot of stories about reality before they understood it. Now that we understand a few things, there is no way to reconcile the stories with what we have discovered. There is no way Adam and Eve could have been the first people. There is no way Noah could have gotten a pair of every animal species on to the ark. There is no way a virgin could be impregnated by a god. Etc. These stories begin to look like exactly what they are - interesting stories, but no more useful than the Greek myths for explaining how reality works and why things are the way they are.

5) Because it supports divisiveness.

Reconciling in-group/out-group conflict is essential if we want to have a peaceful society and a peaceful world. But we are throwing up scads of artificial in-group/out-group distinctions, separating people out by various sects, denominations and orders, all based on a bunch of stuff that no one can prove anything about one way or the other. Protestant vs. Catholic, Christian vs. Muslim, Abrahamic faiths vs. Hindu...these are all significant conflict points based on nothing but specious phantasms.

6) Because it ends the quest.

You get people saying, "I believe what I believe and nothing anyone could ever say or anything that could ever happen could ever change my mind in the slightest. I am an immovable object."

Closing the mind to any further possibility suggested by discovery dulls the intellect and removes the ability to be discerning.

That's a start.

EllaFitzG: So you are only having issues with Christians and other forms of organized religion?

I am not "having issues" with Christians in particular or organized religion per se. My concern is for any kind of unsupported conclusions. Unsupported conclusions are extremely problematic. Religion is one way to get to a lot of unsupported conclusions, but it's not the only way.

EllaFitzG: Surrendering my inner voice and accepting a belief in God..was comforting to me.

I'm glad to hear that. However unsupported conclusions are not the only ticket to comfort. You don't need one to have the other. Besides, I don't buy the argument, which many people have made to me, that this comfort is more important than having our facts straight. Not every fact is comfortable, but having the facts straight is vital nonetheless.

EllaFitzG: I dont know if that profound feeling i have..that so many of us have...is actually meaningful.

It sure seems to be. There's nothing wrong with feeling that there is meaning to the profound. But that's not the same as drawing conclusions about it. The profound feeling means exactly one thing for sure, and that is that people can have profound feelings. All the rest - like "profound feeling = God" or "profound feeling = earth was deliberately created" or "profound feeling = humans are sinners" - is unwarranted.

EllaFitzG: I dont think it narrows my scope of anything.

I don't remember you saying that your beliefs just are what they are and nothing will ever change them. That would be very narrowing to your scope.

EllaFitzG: On the contrary, for me, its broadened my perspective and reintroduced the possibility of "mystery" back into my life.

Life is already so full of mystery! We don't understand a twig. We don't understand ourselves. Life is a grand mystery just figuring out how to live it! I don't see that we need to manufacture more mystery.

EllaFitzG: Honestly? I can say the same for the hard core athiests like Richard Dawkins.

That's his problem. I don't speak for him nor he for me. I'm not an atheist.

Merica: So I'm Christian, my neighbor may be Muslim, another may be Jewish, another may be Pagan, Atheist, the list goes on and on. Why does the belief of these people matter to me?

As long as your only concern with them is as neighbors, it may not matter at all. I certainly haven't quizzed my neighbors as to their religious status, and I avoid religious discussions with aquaintances, for obvious reasons. I don't wish to create conflict in my daily interactions, that is what I come here for. :-)

However I completely disagree with your premise that as long as people act nice, it doesn't matter what they believe.

This is like saying, as long as a scientist is friendly and pays his research assistants well, it doesn't matter if his findings stand up to peer review. The entire reason why peer review exists is so that people can compare what they have discovered about reality and see if it stands up to verification. This is a vital part of determining what is real and what isn't.

I'm not talking about debating whether the Ten Commandments or the Eight-fold Path is a better guide for moral behavior. As long as the person acts nice, does it matter which they follow? No, of course not. These are just guides that people came up with for living a good life. As long as your choice in that matter works for you, great.

But when it comes to discussing what is real, I don't think everybody should just get to pick their own reality as long as they are nice. In reality, we don't live in a world where the Virgin Birth really happened, but only for Christians, and in the atheist's world it didn't happen. It either happened or it didn't. It is the same for everybody. And failing to acknowledge that some things really are the same for everybody is creating unresolvable conflict.

Consider just one ideological battleground, abstinence-only education. This has been favored by Christians and promoted by the Bush administration, because people believe that God does not want teens to have sex with each other. Massive efforts have been poured into virginity pledges, purity balls, and public "just say no" messages. Funds have been diverted away from teaching contraception. What is the result?

Failure. After years of declining teen pregnancy rates, they recently started to rise again. Ditto STDs.

This is because it doesn't matter what people think God wants teens to do. What matters is that abstinence-only education leads to more of what it is supposed to prevent, and not less. What matters is that the ideological belief that teens can be prevented from having sex is wrong. People may think that's "what God wants" but it doesn't work.

It is the same situation with homosexuality. The religiously motivated idea that God doesn't want men to have sex with men or women to have sex with women is relegating a percentage of our population to second-class citizenship.

Observing human nature and human sexuality with a shred of objectivity leads inevitably to the conclusion that homosexuality is naturally occuring. It's a simple fact of life. But instead of asking people to acknowledge the facts, the public debate is dominated by the unwarranted, unsubstantiated beliefs that it's somehow "against God." Well that is ridiculous, and it's unfair, and it sucks. It's wrong.

I think we need to acknowledge that some religious ideas are actually just wrong.

You see, we can't say, "It's okay to believe what you want as long as you are nice." Because believing in the unsubstantiated conclusion that being gay is a "sin" is making us, as a whole, be not nice to gays. We are depriving them of rights we grant everyone else. That's not nice and it's not working.

This is the twenty-first century. We have a troubled world with a lot of problems which need real solutions, and soon. Basing our actions on ideology has been a big failure. Picking and choosing what we do based on unfounded beliefs is a disaster. We need to base our actions on real things that really work. The only way to do this is to stare reality in the face and realize that there is just this one reality, and we all live in it together, and it is the same for everyone. We don't "pick" it, based on what we like. It is what it is.

We don't even know exactly what it is. So why are we jumping to unwarranted conclusions? I think we should try putting the conclusions aside for a time and just find out what it is, together. Maybe then we can all be on the same page.

Merica: In other words, it's not the beliefs that are the issue; it's the expression of those beliefs.

They are not separate.

Merica: I don't think this makes me any less faithful; in fact it is my faith in the just nature of the Lord that allows me to feel this way.

I'm glad your faith allows you to be open minded in this manner. Many people's faiths don't.

So what are we supposed to do about that? Start separating the faiths into the "good" faiths, which are friendly and open minded, and the "bad" faiths, which are rigid and closed-minded? I don't think that's the answer. I don't think it's even possible.

I think we need to acknowledge that, whether they are good or bad, faith conclusions are unsupported. And that unsupported conclusions are not a good tool.

I think I should reiterate that religion is not the only source of unsupported conclusions. Right now, the unsupported conclusion which is kicking our ass the worst is the faith belief in free market capitalism.

It has been clear for years, just by observing the widespread poverty created by unregulated commerce, that the free-market ideology has serious limitations. It's not a total failure but it has failed on many levels. However, free-market proponents aren't interested in examining what works and what doesn't. They have total trust in "the invisible hand" of the marketplace to provide the optimum solution for all.

Except it's not working out that way. Unregulated money mania is threatening to collapse the entire global economy. There is more poverty on this planet than any other kind of economic condition. A very few have become rich beyond the dreams of avarice while everyone else struggles with basic necessities.

It would be great if "the invisible hand" would solve all our problems for us. But since it's not, we have to take up some of the work ourselves. If we are going to let people get rich, we have to put regulations in place to keep them from using their advantage to crush others. If we are going to have winners in the competitive marketplace, we have to put social systems in place which protect the losers.

I bring this up as an example because I don't want people to get the impression that I'm just picking on God, or on the faithful. Unsupported conclusions, wherever they are derived, are just not a ticket to a workable system. They don't work. That's my point.

Merica: Again, I don't think that the faith alone is the "enemy" to all that is fair and just in this world.

I didn't say it was. You are way overstating my position.

I said faith conclusions are unsupported, and because of this, they do not make good tools. If you read the following post you would see that I don't confine my concern about unsupported conclusions to religious unsupported conclusions. Any kind of unsupported conclusion is a poor tool.

Merica: It seems to me that you want to squash the faith itself rather than educate people on the ability to seperate the two.

I don't think those are the only two options and I don't see how either one would work.

I'm not out to "squash faith." But I am certainly out to challenge it. I intend to challenge unsupported conclusions wherever I see them. Are saying that I should not do this?

Merica: All we can do is encourage people to consider all ramifications of their vote and whether or not that policy/law is necessary to protect the freedoms/safety of others.

Of course. Challenging unsupported conclusions is part of this.

9-20-13 11:07Christianity, Homosexuality and Error

GoldenRay: It's actually quite simple. We are told that homosexuality is wrong.

I don't see why you would let another person make that determination for you.

GoldenRay: It is not another "person". It is a higher power that we believe in and trust in.

Why would anyone take the word of another person for what a "higher power" said?

For that matter, why would anyone let a "higher power" make a determination for them which they are capable of making for themselves? It's passing the buck.

GoldenRay: It's a matter of faith. It's believing in something that you have no factual evidence of.

To what end?

GoldenRay: Kinda like not being able to see air but knowing its there.

The trees are waving their leaves in something. I have seen the effects of air and the effects of the lack of air directly demonstrated. It is apprehendable to examination.

However if someone started claiming that the air wanted me to take one day off out of every seven, then I would wonder how they could know that the air wanted that, and why I cannot determine that myself by examination of the air. I would have to conclude that there isn't really any reason to think that "air" has an opinion about what day I should have off.

GoldenRay: I believe that I can see the effect of a world lacking God all around me with everything that is happening to our countries and other countries.

There is no reason to think that there is "less God" now than there was at any previous time. The grave problems of our world are human problems and there are some fairly obvious human solutions.

For the sake of debate, if I could recommend one course that seems to be a great force for better, it would be to suggest more people examine and utilize the ideas of Buddhism. It is shown to be a very effective methodology for achieving happiness and creating peace and the world might be better if there was more of it. Of course that has nothing to do with any kind of god.

GoldenRay: God is a FACT.
Jesus walked this world FACT
Jesus died for our sins FACT
I must try to live my life day by day as God would see fit - FACT!

Those are my facts :-)

The problem is the idea that you get to pick facts.

You don't have to personally decide if homosexuality is a choice. You can examine homosexuality and see how it exists within our culture and our biology and in the spectrum of behavior, and very clearly demonstrate that it is seldom a choice. Observation shows what the facts are.

"Jesus died for your sins" cannot be confirmed by examining reality. Observation shows that it seems to exist only as something that people say. That hardly qualifies as a fact.

GoldenRay: Everyone in this forum thinks deeper than I do lol

Well maybe you should step it up a bit.

GoldenRay: To others my belief may seem stupid and naive but with all that I've been through, and having turned my back on God in the past, life is a lot better knowing he is here with me and looking over me.

I know a lot of people who feel that way. There are many Hindu people who feel this way about the gods of their family shrines. Many Shinto and Native American people feel it is the spirits of their ancestors guiding them. The interpretation varies greatly with the culture one is raised in.

However that is completely separate from dogmatic claims like "Jesus died for our sins."

Melanie: Why are you always challenging religious people? They have their beliefs. It can't be proven, and it may even be false, but they believe it.

That is the problem. When people treat stuff that "may be false" like it is true it creates a great deal of error.

Melanie: Whether you agree with that choice or not, it is their right.

That doesn't make it a good idea.

Melanie: I do not always agree with the consquences of some decisions based on religion, but I will never back down from my stance that protecting this legal right is essential!

That's great but it has nothing to do with what I am talking about. Who is threatening anyone's legal rights?

Melanie: If you choose to think differently concerning these rights, then that is your right and I respect that.

No. I do not think differently concerning these rights. People have the right to believe anything, including obviously wrong stuff.

If you think I am questioning it because I think differently concerning these rights, think again. I am questioning it because treating a bunch of obviously wrong stuff as truth creates error. I don't see how questioning or pointing out error is violating anyone's rights.

Melanie: I apologize, it just comes off as if people believe that others should not have the right to believe in their religion just because it can not be proven by Science, or is disproven by Science.

No need to apologize, I was not offended. However I think "rights" in this case is sort of a straw man.

The point I am trying to make is that, just because people have the right to believe anything, doesn't mean they should. Some things people believe are creating great error. Such as, the error of reducing some of our brothers and sisters to second-class citizenship because people are relying on an ancient book to tell them right from wrong instead of examing reality and correlating wrong with harm.

Melanie: Why blame religion for error? You are going to have people who use religion, politics, or any other excuse to do this.

Ah, the old "people can twist anything" dismissal.

Yes, any time that people disregard reality in favor of dogma it creates error. However, in politics people are not expected to disdain reality in favor of dogma. In religion people are expected to disdain reality in favor of dogma.

Religion is a standout in this area. Particularly Christianity, which basically states that if you don't disregard observable reality in favor of dogma you will BURN IN HELL!!!!

Politics does not do this. Even other religions like Buddhism do not do this. Christianity is extremely culpable in this regard because they have so many unsubstantiated claims which people are supposed to swallow without question...or else.

I mean, even Buddhism has been twisted and as a result, created error. However, in Buddhism it happens very seldom. In Christianity it happens very often.

The content of the religion in question is related to the error. It's not just a "people can create error from anything" problem.

Melanie:I know what many religious texts says, and there are not any that I have come across that encourages this.

Religious text which states that homosexuality is abomination before God encourages this.


I have been considering this, and it occurs to me that in politics sometimes people are required to disdain reality in favor of dogma. But it seems that politics is most required to do this when the issue is wedded to religion - like, supporting abstinence-only education, even though it can be shown to be less effective, because of a religious belief that sex before marriage is wrong.

So, I might say that both politics and religion are standouts in this area. All the more reason we should point out the errors when they occur in either context. It's not enough to sit back and say, well, we'll always have error so what does it matter? Error can be lessened. We should be trying to do so.


Okay, I have been considering this much further.

It seems to me that in recent history, the most egregious example of dogma trumping reality was the disastrous march to war in Iraq. The mindless, jingoistic chanting of the politicians - "weapons of mass destruction...ties to terrorists...mushroom cloud...9/11....." - allowed our nation to utterly disregard the facts on the ground and rush headlong into disaster.

Religion can hardly be blamed for this; it was the work of another great font of error-producing dogma - nationalism.

So I would say that religion, politics, nationalism, etc. are all readily subverted by one great ill - ideology.

By ideology, I mean the idea that what we think inside our heads as being right or good, or workable, or true, is actually more important than the facts about what is right or good, or workable, or true.

As I said, any time that the facts are ignored in favor of ideology, error is produced - like the error of our invasion of Iraq.

However in considering this, I am afraid I find religion to be a standout in the ill of ideology after all.

Here is why: because, seven years after the Iraq invasion, just about everyone is ready to admit the truth - Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, he was not responsible for 9-11, etc. Remember, on the eve of the invasion, almost eighty percent of Americans believed that Saddam did have WMDs or ties to 9-11. Just a few short years and a hard look at reality later, at least that many now know that it was all hype. Reality trumps ideology after all.

In order to overcome the false ideology, a lot of people in this country had to face the facts, and, ultimately, this we were able to do. Facts are facts.

But in order to overcome the ideologies of religion, people would have to give up their most cherished and deeply held beliefs about what they find most important. And this, people are very much less willing to do. Such ideas are held as too sacred to question.

So, simple facts - like "homosexuality is natural" - are utterly ignored by very large numbers of religious people. Plenty of other readily ascertainable facts are ignored as well, in favor of "religious texts." The ordinary tools of discretion and reason are dismissed.

So I would say that some religions stand out in the field for being subverted by ideology because they are enitrely beholden to it. I would say that the less a religion is wedded to ideology - unsubstantiated claims as fact - the harder it is to subvert.

Perhaps this is why Christianity is often subverted and Buddhism seldom is. Christianity contains great numbers of really wild unsubstantiated claims, while Buddhism has very few. In Buddhism, people are asked to scruntize everything, including Buddhism, to see how it corresponds to reality. In Christianity people are actively coerced into unwavering faith in dogma by threats of eternal torture in the fiery abyss.

Melanie: I was simply implying that everyone makes their own decisions, and are accountable for those choices.

If you are saying that Christianity is not culpable for great error, because everyone makes their own decisions, I would have to disagree. Christianity is extremely influential, if not downright coercive, in determining what people consider choices and what they choose.

GoldenRay: I choose not to have homosexual relationships because of what the bible says!

See what I mean?

I would add that if you would prefer to be having homosexual relationships but you aren't because of the bible, that's probably a shame. To thine own self be true.

Melanie: I still think that it seems more wise to hold each individual responsible for their own hearts, thoughts and actions.

It is possible to do this and still find that Christianity is culpable for great error.

It would be ridiculous to say that Christianity is not at all responsible for the thoughts and actions of Christians. That would be claiming it was completely ineffective.

The point is that Christianity is making large numbers of completely unsubstantiated claims, and insisting that they are TRUE - or else! - often in direct contradiction of the evidence. The disconnect between the claims and the reality is producing great error.

It doesn't matter if you hang that on "Christianity" or "individual Christians." The result is great error.

Melanie: This leads me to believe that it would be more prudent to judge the hearts of the individual, but not the religion of all.

I disagree. In fact I think this is ridiculous. This is like saying the tenets of a religion have nothing to do with the religion.

The specific claims of Christianity - like, "homosexuality is abomination before God" - are the specific things that are producing error - like, the error of making homosexuals second-class citizens.

Many of the claims of Christianity are claims about reality. Where those claims are out of line with the reality we are obligated to judge the claim - and, to scrutinize why people will insist the claim is more important than observable reality.

Melanie: Is the philosophy of the religion flawed? That is just something that each person has to decide for themselves...

Some of it, sure. But not the facts. Each person does not get to decide facts for themselves. Facts are what they are regardless of what people think about them.

Melanie: Is there error to the claims made by the bible? Science and History say yes to some of it. I however do not presume to know this with all certainity. Man himself is flawed and I do not think that the Science is without flaws or ability to understand all things (especially of God).

When you observe reality it is easy to understand that homosexuality is not an abomination. It is naturally occurring in humans as well as many other species. There is no pathology. There is no harm that can be correlated to it that is not also true of heterosexual sex. It is simply something that humans do. There is nothing wrong with it.

I am having no trouble understanding that the bible is in error about this.

There are many other claims made by Christianity which are easy to compare against reality and locate a disconnect.

Melanie: Even if you could convince me with all certainity that the bible was wrong in its accounts...

I would like to be clear. I am not saying that the bible or Christianity are wrong about everything. I am saying that where claims about reality are made that do not correspond to reality, the disconnect creates error. I have evaluated Christianity as creating a great deal of this type of error due to the large number of unsubstantiated claims it makes.

Christianity is far from alone in this. Ideology - valuing what we think over the facts - creates error in the government, in the economy, and throughout our culture - even in science...even in Buddhism. To correct the errors, ideology should be challenged everywhere it occurs. Including the Christian religion.

9-20-13 11:07Christianity Lite and Answers to Christian Questions

WetCat: Have you heard about this new "fake" Christianity being taught to teens? They are being sold on this watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" who cares only about boosting their self-esteem. That's not Christianity, it's "moralistic therapeutic deism."

In an attempt to get them interested, teens are being fed a diet of "Christianity Lite" by parents and pastors alike.

Why is that a problem? Is there some reason to think that (pick your flavor) Christianity is more valid than "moralistic therapeutic deism"?

WetCat: The kids want real answers to questions, and they don't get them.

What is an example of a real answer to a question that you can get from "real" Christianity that you can't get from "moralistic theraputic deism" or "Christianity Light"?

WetCat: They have questions like, "The bible was written by Man, right? So how can you be so certain that nothing was changed or edited by MAN? "

And, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" Those are the questions glossed over by Lite Christianity.

What are the answers according to Heavy Christianity?

WetCat: *I* don't have the answers Raver.

Does Heavy Christianity have "realer" answers to these questions than Light Christianity?

Purple Duckling: I would like to know the answers to those questions too! But, I think many of the questions do not have answers.

Either that, or the answers are not compatible with Christianity, Heavy or Light.

Purple Duckling: I had lots of questions about Christianity when I was a teen. No one ever answered them.

When I want answers to questions, I examine the reality with which they are concerned and attempt to see for myself. This is what my examination has shown.

Purple Duckling: Such as, how do we know that the Bible is divinely inspired?

There is no reason to think it is. It doesn't seem to be. You can examine the scriptural writings from many different faiths, and see that no scriptural writings from any religion appear to be any more "divinely inspired" than any others. None contain exclusive wisdom or have magical powers.

Scriptural writings often contain great gems of human understanding, but they are not the only ones, and they appear to be written by humans just as all other human writings were and are.

Purple Duckling: How do we know that the God of different religions isn't the same?

No religious group appears to have any better understanding of "God" than any other. Nothing is known of "God/s" from which to conclude that they/it have differences or similarities.

Purple Duckling: What makes Christianity so special?

Nothing. Upon examination, it appears to be a religion, similar to other religions. There is no reason to think that Christianity represents a better understanding of God, the afterlife, etc., than, say, Hinduism, or Shinto, or a dozen others. Religions serve many functions in societies and in life, but Christianity does not appear to do them better than any other religion.

Purple Duckling: If God is so loving then why does he condemn us to Hell?

Hell is a ridiculous concept. There is no reason to think that people are routed to different afterlife destinations, if any. It is pure speculation deployed to control minds through fear.

Purple Duckling: Well, the bible was written by MAN right? So how can you be so certain that nothing was changed or edited by MAN?

It is obvious that the bible has been changed and edited.

Purple Duckling: Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

There is no reason to think "God" is controlling what happens to people.

WetCat: The difference is, 'heavy' Christians are going to try to answer those questions, whereas 'light' Christians are just going to tell the teens to just have faith.

"Have faith" is the "heavy Christian" answer too.

9-20-13 11:07Do you believe in God?

Method: I just want to know, do you believe in God or not?

I am not concerned with the existential question of "God."

It seems obvious that there is a spiritual aspect to human existence. Most humans experience moments of direct divine apprehension - feelings of great love...strength in adversity, comfort in grief...ecstatic bliss, one-with-everything, etc. This happens to people of all faiths and none. Some choose to call it "God" and that seems as good a word as any.

However when people depart from what can be directly apprehended - spiritual feelings - into claims, that is when I become concerned. Specific claims about "God" - that He created the earth, or has a Son, or wants us to have a certain day off work, etc. - cannot be substantiated or confirmed by any examination of reality. They appear to exist entirely within human conversation - just stuff that people say.

I don't see how people become convinced by unsubstantaited claims which they cannot confirm. Even the Buddha said that you should not accept any teaching, not even his, if you cannot confirm it to be valid.

I spend a lot of time debating religious topics, but the "existence of God" is not usually one of them. There are plenty of other completely unsubstantiated claims to address.

TeaCup: I lean on the side of a sentient (or maybe not) energy that surrounds us and flows through us...

...it binds the galaxy together. May the force be with you! :-)

TeaCup: Seriously. I've tried to deny God on many occasions, but always found myself resisting something I just couldn't. No matter what I think, I always feel there is a God.

I was hoping I had addressed this already. I have not said there is not a God, and the feelings that you describe are exactly the sort of direct divine apprehension that I was speaking of. In other words, you don't need faith for that - you are getting experiential evidence.

Faith is only required when people want to believe claims that cannot be directly apprehended - like, God is vengeful, humans have original sin, etc. The reason you need faith for those things is because it's just a bunch of talk.

I don't see why anyone would even want to believe ideas like "there is a Hell and some people go there" on faith. It's unsubstantiated speculation and ugly at that. It can't be confirmed. So why invest ideas like that with faith?

9-25-13 4:20Defend Reincarnation, you Buddhist!

ShawnaTeKwana: I actually admire and try to apply some of the most basic buddhist tenets to my life. However, some of its fundamental teachings - namely reincarnation - don't sit well with my logical mind, so I've never really adopted it entirely. I can't really debate a buddhist because I believe in so many of this religion's teachings. But how do you explain your belief in reincarnation?

Whoa, there is no rule that says you have to believe in reincarnation to be Buddhist! The Buddha never taught reincarnation.

Reincarnation is a Hindu belief. The analagous term in Buddhism is called "rebirth." However rebirth is not synonymous with reincarnation. The Buddha's most basic teaching on the matter, anatman, means literally no soul.

The Buddha said that what, if anything, occurs beyond this life is not known, and that the question is a distraction from enlightenment. When pressed, he indicated a twig in the fire, and said, "When the twig is consumed, where does the flame go?" Many have taken this to mean that when the flame of life goes out the energy simply dissipates.

Buddhism arose admidst Hinduism, in which reincarnation was central. "Rebirth" appears to be a Hindu graft to appease the sensibilities of the time. It seems to mean that the energy of your karma continues to affect this life for awhile after you are gone...not that there is a spiritual recycling of the soul.

Hope that clears it up. As I have said, I try generally to avoid beliefs, and I wouldn't be caught dead trying to claim something that could not be substantiated.

ShawnaTeKwana: You're right, I was thinking of the concept of rebirth, and I've always taken it literally, as though it meant something like reincarnation.

Rebirth is a pretty wishy-washy concept any way and not at all central to enlightenment. But that's one of the great things about Buddhism - it is a buffet, from which you are free to use what works and disregard what doesn't work or doesn't make sense.

ShawnaTeKwana: Anything that has to do with a past life or a future life is out of the question for me, so even the idea of karma that follows you after you die isn't appealing to me.

People have a lot of misconceptions about karma, like it is supposed to be an eternal cosmic payback machine. But karma is just the observation that effects arise from causes. It's not a supernatural force. The kind of karma that "follows you" after you die is your legacy.

This is why I like Buddhism. It is a rich spiritual tradition, yet it is not particularly concerned with supernatural posits and does not demand that you abandon reason.

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