10-28-13 1:21  •  Pascal's Wager = God is Evil

Not Me: I always thought belief was a "i'd better wipe my ass twice" thing. You know, just to be safe. Just in case there IS a heaven, let me believe in this mythical imaginary being who only shows himself to people in the middle of nowhere who are all alone.

I never saw the benefit of Pascal's Wager...believing in "Jesus" just in case that one, narrow belief, out of millions of them, happens to be correct. What if it's not? Then a person would have spent their one short precious life as a total rube, conned by a ridiculous scheme, oblivious to the true nature of existence. If it's just about the gamble, I don't see why one would want to chance that.

For a different take on it, here's an excerpt from a piece my husband wrote about PW recently for an article in Minnesota Atheists:

"Pascal's Wager of course states that we have everything to gain (an eternity in heaven) and nothing to lose by believing in a god. On the other hand, disbelief can lead to a loss of heaven (i.e. hell).

"This is only true if you assume that god is evil and will damn those who get it wrong.

"If you assume god is good and will not damn those who get it wrong, then the wager favors being honest and courageous in your beliefs since a good god would presumably favor honesty and courage over being duplicitous and cowardly to gain favor or avoid punishment."

10-28-13 2:21  •  Faith and NDEs

Seana: I just don't understand why people can't just let others believe what they want to and let it go.

Because that would be pretending that it doesn't matter what's actually true.

Seana: I know God and Jesus are real. I have felt them with my senses. They were with me during the darkest day of my life. I got to smell the sweetest scent, that night Jesus came to hold my hand in my room.

How do you know it was Jesus and not, say, Vishnu? The Hindus say that Vishnu is holding a lotus flower. Perhaps that was the source of the scent.

Seana: Of course it wasn't!

How can you tell?

Seana: I just can. I don't have to understand it. I have faith. That's enough for me.

Why? Would it just be too much effort for you to find out what is real?

Seana: No. Because I don't think we CAN know exactly what is real in this life.

Then why believe a bunch of stuff? What's wrong with "I don't know"?

Seana: I have faith because I do. There's no explanation beyond "it's what feels right to me".

You should consider a more proactive approach in choosing your beliefs. What you "feel" could be completely wrong.

Seana: I don't believe I am wrong.

You admitted that you don't really know and can't know. Your "belief" is contradicted by the beliefs of others and by the observable facts. How can you pass it off as true to your kids?

Seana: Because I believe I am right. Period.

How convenient. It certainly saves you a lot of time in making sure you think things for a good reason. __________________________________________

Seana: I died to see Heaven!

No you didn't. If you were dead you would not be here now. Near death is not actual death. Death is irreversible.

Seana: Really? So how do you explain the poeple who have NO vital signs - who flatline and are pronounced....and then come back?

They were not dead.

Seana: No vital signs. No brain waves. That's dead.

Not if it is only momentary. Vital functions can be temporarily interrupted and then resume if you are not dead.

Death: the act of dying; the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism.

Seana: In some cases, you're right. But I do think there have been cases of people actually coming back from the dead.

Well, when you don't care about thinking things for a good reason you can just think whatever you like, regardless of reality.


Seana: When it comes to God, my instincts tell me it is what's right. I trust my instincts.

Other peoples' "instincts" are telling them something different about gods. What makes you think your instincts are right and their instincts are wrong?

Seana: I naturally pick my own instincts over other people's. Are YOU going to trust MY instincts over your own?

Of course not. The difference is, I'm not going to trust the instincts of the bronze-age sheep herders instead. In fact, in these matters I don't trust "my instincts" either. "Instincts" can be wrong.

When it comes to finding out what is real, the last place I would go searching for it is inside my own head. Thoughts can be anything. When I want to know what is real I go to the source. I examine reality.

If the answer is not forthcoming from my examination, I don't fill in the blanks with what I wish was true, or what I want to be true, or with what someone told me is true. I just admit I don't know.

And I don't credit the unsubstantiated claims of people who are pretending they know. What basis is there to accept that they know and I don't?

If what they were saying was actually real it could be verified. If what they were saying was based on actual reality it wouldn't be different for every single person. Since it can't be verified and it is not consistent, there is no reason to think that what they are saying is correct.

Seana: You don't believe thats fine. Why should it bother you that I do?

There is stuff people claim to believe that appears to stand in direct conflict with what others believe, and with the observable facts. Clearly, someone is wrong. Yet, everyone pretends that it doesn't matter.

I don't accept that. The truth matters.

10-28-13 3:23  •  Solipsism

Bellafant: How *does* one find out what *is* real??

You check.

Bellafant: You check what? lol

The claim against the observable.

I could make the claim that in earth's gravity well objects fall at 32'/sec²-drag. You don't have to take my word for it. You can drop an object and verify this for yourself. That's checking.

Bellafant: I don't think it's that simple. Reality is subjective. If you believed in Vampires then absolutely they are real...to you.

Would that make vampires have physicality?

Bellafant: I don't know. I guess not.

Then by what criteria do you figure the word "real" applies?

Bellafant: Does "god" have physicality?

I really don't know what people think about that. People seem to think that God is a "spirit" of some kind, who can exist in the presence of matter without displacing it. I.e., "God is everywhere." But I don't understand how people think a spirit with no physicality can move physical objects around.

Regardless of this, however, I was asking about vampires, and from what I understand, for something to fit the definition of "vampire" it would have to have some kind of physicality. Vampires turn into bats, they bite necks and suck blood, they can get a stake pounded through the heart, etc. Unless one abandons the term "vampire" and goes for one more like "ghost," I really don't see how vampires could ever qualify as "real" without physicality, no matter how much one person thought they were.

From what I can tell, a person truly, totally believing that vampires were real would not make them real. It would make that person wrong.

Bellafant:What i meant by that is, a person who believed in them would make them their reality. I would imagine that they would then see the world with that perspective in it and their behaviours would reflect that.

Bella, I appreciate what you are saying and I don't think you are wrong about this. But for the sake of this kind of discussion, I think it is a mistake to conflate "personal reality" with actual reality. It simply clouds the issue.

Sure, people create their own "reality" but it affects mainly what they think and do. There needs to be a term to designate the stuff outside of the "personal reality," the stuff that would still be here if every person disappeared. "Reality" is the word we have. When I say "real" or "reality" I am using it in the philosophically precise sense to mean the stuff that exists independently of human perception.

ree-al-i-tee] –noun

5. Philosophy.

a. something that exists independently of ideas concerning it.
b. something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive.

Unless we want to delve into the most philosophically boring topic ever, solipsism, I am going to go with the pragmatic observation that there is stuff. Unless you can suggest a better term, I will continue to use "reality" to mean the stuff.

Bellafant: I doubt it would be boring to me lol. "Reality" is a fav topic of mine.

Reality, yes. Solipsism, perhaps not so much. Just suppose, for the sake of argument, that only the self exists, and nothing else can be shown to have reality.

What else is there to say?


Bellafant: I know! Tantilizing isnt it?? I get goosebumps lol.

Yeah, but then what?

Solipsism makes for boring conversation. There isn't anything to say about it that we haven't already said. I'm just sayin'. :-)

Bellafant: Hours i have spent playing with it around in my head lol.

Well, I'm game. Like what?

Bellafant: Well, I'll have to think about that and get back to you.

My point was, no matter how much "evidence" you, me, science provides to some people of faith, their reality will always be limited to their biases.

No, it won't. The thing that is limited by their biases is not actual reality. The reality is not comprised of what they think.

If you drop a boulder on someone, it does not matter in the slightest what they think about it. The actual reality will crush them. Their personal reality, to the extent that it differs from actual reality, is utterly meaningless. Actual reality trumps personal reality. Every time.

10-28-13 12:21  •  Deprogramming

Josie And: I wish I didn't have to send my kids to public school. I am Christian, and I have to "deprogram" my kids in SO many ways. They know that they learn things in school so they can get the right answer and get good grades, but they know not to believe anything school teaches them without talking it over with Mom and Dad first.

Bellafant: You tell them that you are right and that the teachers are wrong?

Josie And: I tell them that their teachers are smart but Mommy and Daddy are smarter, lol.

Bellafant: You are claiming to know more about everything than the teachers? That's a pretty grand claim.

Josie And: I never claimed to be all knowing or infallible.

Then why tell your children you are right and their teachers are wrong? You could be feeding them a line of total bullshit.

Josie And: Because I don't believe I am wrong.

You admitted that you don't really know. Your "belief" is contradicted by the beliefs of others and by the observable facts. How can you pass it off as true to your kids?

Josie And: People usually consider themselves right over some opposing view point. And they typically pass that onto their kids.

First of all, that's why it's important to have good reasons to think what you think. I don't pass anything off to my kids as "true" that cannot be verified. If I don't know, I just say that.

Second of all, there is a difference in simply being mistaken about something and believing stuff that has no basis at all. If I accidentally tell my kids something incorrect, they are free to point it out to me, and I'm happy to admit I didn't have my facts straight.

Telling them I'm right about "god" or "the afterlife" when there is no reason to think I am would be lying.

Josie And: I feel there is more to the world than meets the eye, MORE than just science and logic and things that can be explained.

Quite probably there is. Science is in its infancy and is far from explaining everything.

That doesn't mean the only alternative is make up a bunch of stuff to fill the void.

Bellafant: People don't actually say that, do they? "This is what I think about God and I'm right!"

Is there a difference between saying, "I'm right!" and "I believe that I am right, period, and nothing anyone ever says and no facts to the contrary will ever change my mind!" ?

I think telling your kids that the science they are being presented at school about evolution is all wrong, and that Mommy and Daddy are "smarter" about these things, is at least roughly equivalent to saying "This is what I think about God and I'm right. Period."

Josie And: I'm sure you do exactly the same thing about your own beliefs.

This is a very common mistake that religious people make. They often say that because they have their minds made up and will never change them, that means that everybody has their minds made up and will never change them.

Well, that is just wrong. People who respect reality and truth will change their minds when they are shown that what they thought was incorrect. Not everyone is stuck believing dogma.

Josie And: I've debated these matters on line for years. Know how many times someone has come to agree with me on these matters when they did not before? None. Just the way it is.

Have you said anything that could be shown to be true?

Josie And: True to me, of course.

Well, this doesn't meet the criteria of "can be shown to be true."

Josie And: But since our definitions of truth differ, my truth and evidence is not sufficient for those that do not see truth as I see it.

Why do you want to use a "different" definition of truth? What's wrong with the ordinary definition?

Josie And: I'm not "making stuff up to fill the void." I didn't make up the existance of God and the afterlife.

No. Somebody told you about it. For some reason, you just decided to go along with it.

But they didn't make it up either. Somebody told them about it. And so on, back to the people who did make it up, some bronze-age sheep herders a few thousand years ago.

Josie And: It's my hypothesis that the manifestation of our belief exists. Now, do you have any evidence that im wrong? No.

It is impossible to prove a negative, but you should realize that that doesn't automatically make it possible or correct. Why think that particular thing instead of ten billion other completely different and equally non-evident possibilities?

Hypothetically, there could be invisible magical micro-monkeys who fly out of your nose every time you sneeze. Do you have a single, solitary shred of evidence that there AREN'T magical micro-monkeys? Does that mean we should automatically jump on the magical micro-monkey theory and assume that this is responsible for all nose anomolies?

Or, should we examine the nose and see what can be found there and start our nose theories based on our findings?

Undoubtedly there are millions of amazing and wonderful things going on which we have NO information about at all. Perhaps someday we will discover some of them. Until then, there is no way to select the "manifestation of belief" hypothesis over the "magical micro-monkey" hypothesis or any other thing we happen to make up. It's all nothing but baseless speculation. It's not useful...other than maybe for a laugh. :-)

10-24-13 12:21  •  Why Should I?

Mazzy: I just know I am right. God is real as you and me, and it is He who has given me everything good in my life.

I do not have to prove to any one what I know is real. What is the point?

Why do researchers publish their findings in academic journals? What is the point?

Mazzy: I am not a researcher trying to prove something.

I didn't ask about you. I asked about them. Do you know why researchers publish their findings in academic journals?

Mazzy:To inform and educate.

Yes. To share. But also, to learn. Peer review is an exchange.

Mazzy: What does this have to do with my not having to prove to any one what I know to be true for myself?

Do you really think that your knowledge is so complete that there is nothing left in the universe for you to learn? Do you feel that your knowledge is so inconsequential it cannot be of use to another? That's a shame.

You asked, what is the point? The point is to teach and to learn. If that seems "pointless" to you I'm really very sorry. There might be things you could teach. And, believe it or not, there might be things you could learn.

Mazzy: You can claim it's to teach and learn. But from what I have seen of atheists, they don't want to learn at all. They just want to trick believers into sharing as a way to degrade and to insult religious beliefs.

So what? You've got the truth on your side, right? You are one hundred percent, no-possibility-of-error, absolutely correct in your assessment that God is real, and interacts with people, and watches over you and does things for you personally...aren't you?

You should be able to bat away their objections without breaking a sweat, as easily as I could refute some loon trying to insist that the house I am in doesn't exist. I don't see why skepticism or scorn would bother someone who is right.

I certainly do not fear any attempt to refute my posits. Have at them! At best, I will have the stronger argument, the better evidence, and will be vindicated. At worst, I will learn to understand things better. I have nothing to lose.

I don't see why you do. Do you feel that your position cannot withstand scrutiny?

Bellafant:Ya but you cant compare someones opinion or views to scientific research.

Whether or not there exists a personal God who intervenes in human affairs is not a matter of opinion. It's either a fact, or it isn't, just like any other fact.

She didn't say it was "her opinion." She said she knew.

Bellafant: She doesn't have to share, or exchange or teach.

Of course. Nobody has to. But if you thought you were right, why wouldn't you want to?

Mazzy: My position has most certainly withstood scrutiny. It always will.

You mean, your position that there is a personal God who intervenes in human affairs? If that is true, it should be very easy to demonstrate. Prove it.

Mazzy: I used to share here. I won't now. Quite honestly, when words are taken and twisted to fit the need or another, it just gets tiresome.

But I do know. For myself, I most certainly know.

It doesn't look like you know. It looks like you just think you know.

But, that should be easy to fix. That which can be known can be shown. Prove it.

Mazzy: My mere existence is evidence of how God has been a huge factor in my life. If not for Him and His love, I would not be here today to discuss this with you.

It might not be because of God. Prove that it is.

Mazzy: I just know. There is no doubt.

No doubt? That's too bad. Doubt is healthy.

Mazzy: I do have proof, lots of it. Although any proof provided to you, and others, will never be good enough.

Why not? If it's real, and there is real proof, people who are intellectually honest will have no choice but to accept it. What is the proof?

Mazzy: I am living proof! The fact that I did not take those pills all those years ago is indeed because of God.

It might not be. I have no clue what you are talking about, but it is entirely likely that you, yourself, had at least something to do with what you do or don't do with pills.

I understand that you "think" it was God. However, unless you are saying that you are perfect, infallible and all-knowing, it is possible for what you think to be wrong. Since it cannot be verified or confirmed in any way, there is at least a possibility that you are mistaken.

Not everything that people just think in their heads is right. That's why it's important to be able to check.

Mazzy: Actually, my having no doubt in my Faith is one of the most healthy aspects of my life.

So you say. However, since you do not have a stringent criteria for what you think, for all anyone knows this could just be a delusion.

Mazzy: The real proof, as I previously stated, is the fact that I am here to type these words. Period.

Typing words is not proof of God. You have no evidence of Divine Intervention. You just have your own thoughts about it. Unless you are claiming to be infallible, your thoughts could simply be wrong. Typing "Period" at the end doesn't add a shred of credibility to your unfounded declarations.

Mazzy: I do not expect any one who does not have Faith and who does not have God in their lives and heart to understand.

There is no reason to suppose that you "have God" more than any other person. You think that you "have God in your heart", and you think that other people don't, but there is no evidence that you are different from any other person. For all you know, they could "have God" every bit as much as you do. Or perhaps they are the ones who "have God" and you are the one who doesn't. You are in no position to judge who is closer to God, and pronounce it to be yourself and not them.

Mazzy:I know what is true.

That's a pretty big claim. How do you figure that you are more qualified to discern what is true than, say, I am?

Mazzy:I am not trying to judge who has God and who doesn't.

If you state that you "have God," and other people cannot understand, because they don't "have God," you are claiming to know who has God and who doesn't. How are you qualified to make that determination?

Mazzy:Raver, I am indeed qualified to state my own belief system, what I know to be true for myself.

Of course you are qualified to state what you think. However that is not the same as saying you "know what is true." "Know" means "to perceive or understand as fact or truth." What is fact or truth is not something that you get to decide for everyone.

Mazzy: I am indeed qualified to state that I know what is right versus wrong for myself.

If you are using the moral version of right and wrong, that is, "moral" and "immoral," then you may be qualified; however, that is entirely beside the point because I was never questioning your ability to make this kind of determination. It's a red herring.

Conversely, if you are using the definitive version of right and wrong, that is, "correct" and "incorrect," then I don't see how you are more qualified to determine the correctness of objective statements about reality like "God exists" than anyone else. In fact, since you are clearly using just what you "think" and "feel" instead of stringent criteria like objective evidence, that might even make you less qualified.

Mazzy: Just as you are indeed qualified to indicate the same for yourself.

Sure. But the difference is, I don't go around saying I know what is true about the existence of deities. I am honest enough to say that don't know for sure and I would not presume to declare otherwise.

Mazzy: I cannot provide you with the proof you seek. If that lends one to feel that I believe in made up fairies in the sky, so be it.

That's cool. However I think it casts doubt on your previous assertion that your position can withstand scrutiny. You are stating outright that you cannot support it and equating it with made up faries. For all I am able to determine your position could be completely wrong. So I would have to say it does not appear to withstand the least amount of scrutiny.

Mazzy: Ahhh Raver, once again, there is nothing that any one could say to you on this subject that would ever bring you around to some sort of understanding.

What makes you think I don't have any sort of understanding? I just said that you could be wrong. Is that possibility really so far out of the ballpark that it indicates some severe deficiency in my human cognitive and emotional ability to have understanding?

Mazzy: You will never change your mind, you should realize that.

Sorry, no. That is not my chief concern; however, I would never discount the possibility that I could learn something new. It would be the height of arrogance to decide that there is nothing anyone could ever say to change my thinking.

Mazzy: No amount of questions, no amount of interpretation of my thoughts and feelings by others will ever change this.

That seems pretty closed-minded. It is amazing to me that you would insist you are infallible.

10-23-13 12:21  •  Prove Your Love!

Bellafant: Mazzy is claiming she knows that God is real, and you said, "That which can be known can be shown. Prove it."

Do you love your daughter? Can you prove it to me?

First of all, love is a naturally occurring human emotion that exists within and between us as humans, not a magical sentient being with superpowers who intervenes in human affairs and determines the fate of our eternal souls in the afterlife. The two are not equivalent, or even on the same order of magnitude.

Second of all, yes I love my little girl dearly and I would be happy to attempt to demonstrate it.

I could describe to you the fact that I nursed my baby in my arms and cuddled her and kept her clean and dried her tears and ran to her whenever she called. I could describe how I try every day to keep her safe and give her what she needs and teach her everything she must know to be strong, smart, cheerful and have a good life. I could describe how happy it makes me to see her precious little smile. I could relate to you the many times a day I tell her that I love her and the countless hugs I give her and the hundreds of times I smile at her precocious antics.

But, I suppose you could say that I was just lying about all that.

So, I could get notarized statements from my husband and my family to attest to the fact that I take care of my girl and treat her lovingly and kindly and do everything to look out for her welfare and tell her I love her all the time.

But, I suppose you could say that they could just as easily be lying also.

So, I could hook us all up to polygraph tests and testify to these behaviors and then show you the results.

But, polygraph tests are not one-hundred-percent reliable. They can be fooled.

So, I could invite you to my house to see how I interact with my daughter. You could see for yourself how lovingly I treat her and how my face lights up when she walks in the room. You could observe first-hand that I do, in fact, act as if I love her very, very much.

Now, at this point it would probably be enough for, say, a custody hearing in a family court, to demonstrate, on a preponderance of the evidence, that my love for her exists in sufficient quantity to make me an adequate caregiver.

But, I suppose you could say that the normal standard of judgement on these matters is insufficient, and that just because I act like I love her doesn't prove that I do love her.

I would argue that such consistent behavior would be extremely hard to fake year after year, and that consistently loving behavior is a fairly accurate indicator of loving feelings, particularly in the total absence of contraindications. But, I suppose you could suggest that I am really an incredible actress who could out-emote Streep and who has everyone fooled.

So, I would invite you to hook me up to an MRI and examine the centers of my brain that are activiated when I think of my little girl, and show how they are consistent with brain patterns of others experiencing loving feelings. I could provide you with a blood sample to demonstrate how my oxytocin levels rise when I hold my baby girl in my arms, in a manner known to be consistent with loving feelings of a mommy for her offspring.

As far as I know, there is just no way to fake those things.

If that would still not be sufficient for you, then perhaps there isn't any way to prove it, but at least I really, really tried.

If only someone could show me even a fraction of this much evidence that a "God" actually exists and intervenes in human affairs, I would certainly be willing to consider it.

However, as it is, no one offers anything, except what they "think" and "feel." Since, as far as I know, God is supposed to be an external being, and not just an internal emotion, the presence of thinking and feeling are proof only of thinking and feeling something. They do not demonstrate that the external being exists.

Bellafant: Prove your existance Raver.

Somebody wrote this.

Bellafant: Prove you are not a figment of my imagination lol.

Come to my house. I will hit you with a stick until you either admit that I am real, or try to get away from me, which would be just as much of an admission.


Bellafant: Okay, so love is a human emotion. But you know what? So is faith.

So? I don't think anyone has ever suggested that faith doesn't exist.

Bellafant: Belief in *something* is essentially universal across time, cultures, languages.

This I would not necessarily agree with. Buddhism has been around for 2500 years and has about 500 million followers, yet it generally does not posit supernatural elements or require any kind of faith belief. There are also plenty of non-theists in every culture. Belief in *something* is not a given.

And even if it was, it would not be evidence that the *something* exists. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't

Bellafant: Lemme ask also this, how do you know? How do you know that you love her?

I have a feeling. I was taught to refer to it as 'love'. It feels like what other people describe love as feeling like. It is consistent with inspiring what people describe as loving behavior.

But, for all I know it could be something else. I am not committed to a faith belief that what I experience is love and that there is no way it could possibly be anything else.

Bellafant: Bottom line is, you have no idea if what you feel towards your family, IS actual love....the same sort of love that the rest of humans feel.

So what if it isn't? It appears to work in exactly the same way. That seems good enough to get the job done.

That is completely different from saying that I KNOW I feel love, and I KNOW it comes from the Easter Bunny.

Bellafant: I don't think that love can be "Proved". Not in the empirical sense that you've been asking of others to prove what they claim to know in their heart. That their conception of God is that he speaks to them.

I am sure people do feel that God speaks to them. I would never suggest that people don't think that and feel that. Obviously some do. However they could be wrong about the cause of the feeling being God actually speaking to them. There is no evidence that it is actually caused by an external God who exists independently of human thought.

Bellafant: God to me is internal. Not external.

Great! Sounds fun.

However when people are claiming to KNOW that God is a sentient being who created the earth, who answers prayers, who magically heals illness, and who arranges for people who think the wrong thing to get the bad afterlife, it sounds like they are describing something which is external.

Bellafant: And perhaps you should realize that even if you and i agree that real things can be proved.....it doesnt mean that we are right in expecting others to accept that concept and embrace it by admission lol.

I don't expect anyone to do anything. That doesn't mean I can't attempt to discuss it. It makes for interesting debate.

Bellafant: You claim that faith is baseless. Minimizing it and trivializing faith....is also baseless, IMO.

I am a little surprised that simply saying "You could be wrong" and "Prove it" are sufficient to "minimize" and "trivialize" what, if it does exist, would be the biggest, most important thing in the universe. If people are actually feeling "minimized" and "trivialized" maybe they should wonder why their views seem tiny and unimportant when pressed with the simplest questions.

Bellafant: I still say faith is universal. You claim Buddhism doesn't require faith, but I disagree. How could believing in "rebirth" be anything other than faith?

Buddhism arose in India where the Hindu idea of reincarnation was a commonplace belief. Rebirth is sometimes grafted onto Buddhism for this reason. However, a basic principal the Buddha himself taught was "anatman," or "no soul." He was specifically asked if the soul reincarnated, and he said that it was a total unknown and a distraction from enlightenment. When pressed on the question, he plucked a twig from the fire and pointed to the flame. He said, when the twig is consumed, where does the flame go? People have taken that to mean that when the body is dead the flame of "atman" or "soul" just goes out.

Despite the fact that the Buddha did not teach rebirth and seemed to deny it, some Buddhists accept reincarnation. Even so, I don't think we can conclude from this that faith is universal. For one thing, some Buddhists may believe it but others don't. For another, nowhere in Buddhism is faith a requirement. There is no tenet that says you MUST believe this or else you are wrong, bad, going to hell, etc.

The basic tenets of Buddhism are not supernatural posits about gods, souls, afterlife, sin, etc. They are simple guidelines for living a life free of suffering. But even the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path are not objects of faith. You are free to embrace them to the extent that you find them useful or reject them to the extent that you don't.

So, I still disagree with your posit that faith is essentially universal.

Bellafant: And then, you say that it doesn't matter if what you feel is really love, as long as it "gets the job done."

Well, it helps some people govern their lives to believe what they do. It "gets the job done" in their lives. Or so they claim.

I'm sure faith does help govern peoples' lives and "get the job done." I would not dispute that.

The difference is this: the fact that "what I think of as love" does the "job of love" implies that it is, in fact, love, and that love is real.

The fact that faith "gets the job done", similarly, implies that faith is real. It does not imply that God is real.

Faith exists, it is an emotion, it is naturally occurring, it has utility, etc. That doesn't mean that God actually exists or that people can "know" that God exists. Faith could exist in the absence of God.

Bellafant: You keep asking for "proof." It is unprovable and you don't accept that limitation. A limitation that some have in trying to prove it...a limitation that is inherent in their faith.

I do accept that it can't be proved. Of course it can't.

What I am trying to do is show that the "limitations of faith" mean something. The fact that it can't be proved means that the faithful might be wrong about what they believe.

That's what I'm saying. Since they can't prove it, they might be wrong.

If that is "minimizing" and "trivializing" to faith, then perhaps that's part of the problem with faith.

10-22-13 12:21  •  When should we compare faith to reality?

Amy: At what point must one's faith-based beliefs be tempered with a comparison to objective reality, at least insofar as we as humans are capable of doing so?

Mazzy: I have no definitive answer. I do not know any one who does.

Well I have an answer and it's not at all difficult.

The answer is that if you want to avoid delusion, faith-based beliefs must always be tempered with comparisons to objective reality. At the point where the faith-based beliefs diverge from what can be shown in objective reality, the faith-based beleifs must be considered possibly wrong in deference to a far more reliable authority.

People can think anything. It's obvious that lots of what people have thought has been flat-out wrong. The only way to avoid error and delusion is to compare the internal workings of the mind with what is apparent in reality.

Mazzy: What one considers reality may not match another's.

Give me a break. That's no excuse to pretend that objective reality is therefore meaningless. People's realities aren't that different.

Once you emerge from the flat, uninteresting territory of solipsism, and admit that there sure dang does appear to be an objective reality outside of your individual mind, it's a milk run from there. If what every person considered reality was so different from every other person's, there is just no way that we could, say, run an international airport. It takes far too much common understanding and agreement on the basics of physical reality.

It doesn't matter what language you speak or what culture you are from or what religion you are. It is almost always physically possible to travel from your country to any other country in the world. No matter what you "think," our common understanding of the laws of aerodynamics allow us to design planes that stay the air, and our common perception of time allows us to manipulate complex schedules and coordinate departures and arrivals and move millions of people and objects around the world on any given day. It's not perfect, but we get it right often enough to base our entire global society around having this function adequately.

And yet, it must be admitted that there are some minor differences in people's perceptions of reality. That is why, before people make definitive statements about what is real, they check.

They make observations. They take measurements. They do this, not once, or twice, but many, many times. They allow many, many different people to attempt the same observations and measurements, and then they compare them. They repeat this process over and over under every conceivable circumstance until the obviousness of what is observed becomes clear.

Most importantly, they allow for a margin of error. They say, "This is what appears to be the case, based on what we can tell right now, and we accept that we might be wrong."

We try. We do the best we can. We learn from our mistakes and keep trying. We get better. And eventually we end up with stuff we understand enough to make it work, objectively, for practically everyone who tries it. That is the point at which we can reasonably begin to assert that we know something.

10-21-13 12:21  •  Nothing in the Bible Disproved

Joleen: ....so, as you can see, bats are not actually claimed to be birds in the Bible.

Is there anything left of Danie's objections that have yet to be dispelled, or have I adequately proved that, so far as our science has established beyond doubt, nothing in the Bible has yet to be disproved?

This is just ridiculous.

While you are busy debating the minutiae of whether or not a bat can be taxonomically considered a bird, you are overlooking the very obviously wrong crap the Bible states, like a virgin can be magically impregnated by a spirit, or that a person can magically return from the dead, or that water can be magically turned into wine, or that loaves and fishes can be magically multiplied. These are not things that really happen.

By your logic, I suppose we could say that science has never disproved that a goddess can magically turn a lady into a spider. Therefore, the Greek myth of Athena and Arachne can actually be considered true, and therefore the Greek Gods are real and we should all be worshipping them right now.

Quick, grab a chicken for the sacrifice!

Joleen: By definition miracles are outside the laws of nature. You don't choose to believe in them, but they are not disproved.

Just keep telling yourself that. Science hasn't "disproved" the Tooth Fairy either. Does that make her real?

Magic is pretend. There is not one iota of evidence, not a single shred anywhere, suggesting that it is anything other than a folktale.

Joleen: God actually wants us to seek knowledge of the world He made for us. Science is limited, however. There is much it has not and perhaps cannot explain.

Of course. However that doesn't automatically make your one particular fairy tale explanation true.

Joleen: Who are you, who weren't even there at the time, to declare that hundreds of thousands of people who were there and proclaim their agreement that this is what they experienced, are all wrong?

First of all, people in those days didn't know there was no such thing as magic. They could have seen someone doing simple slight-of-hand like David Copperfield, and - lacking our modern understanding of what is real and what isn't - they would not even have realized it was just an illusion.

Second of all, "hundreds of thousands of people" witnessed it...according to the one or two guys who wrote it down. Those couple of guys could have been wrong about how many people "saw" it, what they saw, or whether anything actually happened at all.

Joleen: If you limit your science...

"Science" has nothing to do with this. Nobody uses "science" to discern that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are made up. It is a simple observation.

Joleen: ...by insisting on denying the reality of the testimony of the shared experiences of hundreds of thousands of people...

Unsubstantiated personal testimony does not equal reality.

Joleen: ...because it doesn't fit your pre-conceived idea of how you want the world to work...

You seem to be the one with the pre-conceived idea of how you want the world to work. You want it to be like the Bible. However, it doesn't appear to be.

Joleen:...then you are perverting your science and guaranteeing that you will fail to understand anything properly through it.

This sounds like total bullshit to me. But if it's true it should be very easy to prove.

Show evidence that non-Bible-believers generally are "perverting" science, and are failing to understand it as "properly" as Bible-believers do.

Joleen: Seriously, David Copperfield? Parting a river or a sea just long enough to allow a couple hundred thousand people to cross then closing it again just in time to crush the pursuing army is quite a "slight-of-hand."

Quite. But there is no way to confirm that it happened at all. It's a story.

In any case, it's not the job of science to go around disproving every tribe's little folktale. If you want to insist the Bible stories are true, the onus is on you to prove that it is, not on "science" to prove that it isn't.

Joleen: Why would people who had not witnessed the miracles, as stated, agree to not only accept the commandments of the god they believed caused them but also to pass on "lies" to their children and grandchildren?

Because they believed it. However beliefs can be wrong.

Joleen: I consider the corroborating testimony and witness of well over 100,000 people as "substantiated."

It was only "corroborated by 100,000 people" according to the one guy who wrote it down. That one guy could have made it up or been wrong.

Joleen:If you do not, then what would it take to substantiate a testimony to your satisfaction?


Joleen:Frankly, if such a multitude agreed that they had all personally seen and talked with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and/or the Tooth Fairy then I would have to at least consider the possibility that such entities did exist.

When and if that actually happens I may consider it. It hasn't happened yet.

Joleen: To contemptuously dismiss the testimonies of such a multitude based on nothing more than my own, uninformed opinion as someone who was not present at the time would be pure lunacy.

Critically examining what is plausible based on an understanding of reality is hardly "lunacy."

You are the one who is choosing to swallow whole these fantastic tales with no corroborating evidence which a guy wrote thousands of years ago about impossible events that defy the laws of physics and were supposedly generated by a magical invisible fairy in the sky. That doesn't make me the lunatic.

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