04-11-16 2:28What God Wants

CoffeeBean: Of course my parents taught me about God and I learned more in church. But, not everything everyone said lined up. Even the Bible seemed to have some contradictions. Now I don't know who to believe about God.

Look directly into this existence, into nature, and life, and the cosmos, and draw your conclusions about God only from this, only from what you yourself can discern.

No other person has any power to know more about God than you do. Do not let any other person tell you what God is like or what God wants. Find out for yourself.

Clarity: "What God wants"? How could a perfect being 'want' anything? I have never understood this concept.

As far as God seeming to "want," or lack for something, the idea would not present any kind of quandary if people did not insist that their God must be perfect. I don't see why that is even necessary.

But my larger point was that I would certainly not let another person tell me what God is like or what God wants us to do. How could they know better than I?

Clarity: I don't see god as necessary.

I agree, but you asked a hypothetical question and I gave a hypothetical answer.

Clarity: Why even entertain the idea of what the god wants, when there is no evidence of the god in the first place?

Because, just telling people "there is no evidence of the god in the first place" has no effect.

Instead, I am saying, look. If you want to know the truth about what this existence is and what it means, look at it. Look at what there is, find out for yourself.

Outside the words of a holy book, and people talking, there is nothing in nature which suggests divine morality or divine beings. It may be of no use to say that. But if people would really put aside what every other person has declared about God, and find out for themselves what can be known, ultimately they may come to a very similar conclusion.

Clarity: I disagree, pointing out that there is no evidence of God does work. I've known people who were devout believers turned atheist as a result of that beginning statement.

If all you had to do was point it out, you would not still be here still having this debate.

So, let's just say it doesn't work on everybody.

Clarity: Why attach a god to it, even hypothetically?

As far as I can tell, "God" is where CoffeeBean is at. I think you can start there; in fact if that is where you are at, then you have to start there. But you can start there and still get to the truth - if you look.

Looking for God - outside of hearsay - and then seeing what you really find, is a great way to find the truth.

04-10-16 2:28Afterlife Social Program

R.T.: You can laugh and makes jokes about it now, but you will not be laughing in the Hereafter. You may not think you deserve Hell, but you are a sinner like all of us. We all fall short of earning God's grace. We all deserve Hell, and only Jesus's sacrifice on the cross can save us from getting what what we truly deserve. The only way to get Jesus's salvation is to accept him as your personal Lord and Savior.

If you persist in rejecting Jesus's promise and love, it's on you. But mark my words, you will be Feeling the Burn, literally. That's a promise.

From what I have heard, the one thing that God just cannot get over is if you fail to have faith in Him. That one opinion, however earnestly it was formed, is the deal-breaker for Heaven.

If God had any compassion at all, He would say, "Well, you didn't believe in Me. But, it's true that everyone in the world was telling you something different about Me, and none of them can show they are right, and there is not a shred of evidence for any of them. Your opinion, while wrong, is understandable. So, no hard feelings. Come on in to Heaven."

For some reason, many people prefer to think God would never do this. Why is that?

A Pope forgave the guy who shot him. Shot him! You'd think God could forgive people for making an honest mistake that does no harm.

R.T.:I am surprised that someone as intelligent as you would not "Get" it. The Bible is YOUR complete truth, pick it up, read it and then if you still want to deny Jesus that's your choice.

If that is the wrong choice, God should forgive a person for making the mistake and let them in to Heaven anyway.

Kella: Do you accept His forgiveness?

I might. I don't rule out anything. I suppose that would depend on the circumstances in which He offered it.

Kella: It's unconditional and you are welcome to it whenever you want.

That's easy to say. How can I verify this?

Kella: I can't help you with that.

Then maybe you should not pretend you have the authority or the understanding to speak for Him or extend His offer of forgiveness to me in His stead.

Kella: It is only the starting point of the journey to accept His forgiveness.

So, now it is not unconditional, or available any time. It is conditioned on "starting a journey" and the only thing available now is the "starting point."

The instant that I am aware of any deity offering me forgiveness, I will consider what the experience consists of and attempt to determine the proper course. In the meantime, there is only people talking.

I don't feel it would be meaningful to "accept" an offer, made through a third party, that I cannot confirm or gain understanding of.

Kella: Well I would forgive if I was God, and I sure hope if I got it wrong and it's Allah up there waiting, He understands and forgives me.

Or, maybe the ferryman will let you across the river Styx without coins. Call it an afterlife social program. :-)

04-08-16 2:28Shooting An Intruder

Ennis: Did you hear about this case in Oklahoma? This poor young widow, mother of an infant, had these addicts with a knife trying to break into her house. Her husband had just died of cancer, and she had reason to suspect they were trying to steal his cancer drugs before she got rid of them.

She got on the phone with 911. Apparently the guys were having some trouble breaking in and it took them awhile. The lady asked the 911 dispatcher if she could shoot the guys if they came in. Then one guy did break in, and she shot him dead. The other guy turned himself in.

Mennis: If you are a gun owner, your best course of action is to have a safe place in your home to get to. Most often the best place is a bedroom. The shoot zone is when that door is breached.

Call 911 and keep them on the phone. That way, the entire event is on record and hopefully they are captured and you don't have to shoot someone, because even in self defense, it is a life altering event.

Does the intruder get to keep the house if you don't shoot him? Why not just leave? You can call 911 from next door just as easy.

Ennis: A grieving teenaged mom of an infant facing men armed with a 12 inch knife trying to break into your home....what would you do? Just let them in???


Ennis: Oh sure, I would say to myself, let me grab my 3 month old baby and walk right past two male criminals...

If your home does not have several possible escape routes, you are in serious danger if there is ever a fire.

Ennis: ...rather than attempting to keep some sort of barrier between me and them?

Distance is by far the most effective barrier. Staying in that situation when there is any possible way you could leave it would be insane. Escaping confrontation is preferable to any other outcome.

Ennis: In her particular situation there were two guys. They could have covered both doors, making it impossible to sneak out.

Why would she should have to "sneak out" if she had a gun? She could shoot anyone who tried to stop her leaving.

My mom was a police officer and what she taught me is that in most situations you can avoid a confrontation with an intruder by leaving. Just because you have a gun is no reason to sit and wait to shoot someone with it. Just because you leave doesn't mean you can't shoot them if they follow you or threaten your safety. And in most cases, the intruder is after something in the home and has absolutely no reason to pursue you if you leave.

The point is, there is no reason to "stand your ground" to protect the place or the things if you can leave. Even having your place sacked and your valuables stolen is way less of a life altering event than killing a guy inside your house.

If you leave, you avoid killing a guy, avoid even confronting a guy, and not being in the same place as a danger is preferable to any other situation.

04-03-16 11:10Abortion Must Be Legal

ExtraSpecial: Our next president needs to be a conservative. We need to get a conservative on the Supreme Court to replace Justice Scalia. How else can we overturn Roe v Wade and make abortion illegal?

Here is why abortion needs to be legal.

1) Only a woman can decide if she wants to carry a pregnancy. Women have extremely complex lives and there are legitimate moral reasons for ending pregnancy. Removing the right of women to make this choice for themselves robs them of self-determination.

2) Illegal abortion does not stop abortion. It just means that rich women travel to places with safe or legal abortion, but poor women turn to unsafe illegal abortion, which can destroy their reproductive health and even their lives.

3) Abortion is a moral choice of less suffering.

First of all, the unborn in 99.9% of abortions do not have developed enough neural connections to feel pain, let alone suffering. And in any case, the experience would be of short duration and obviously not cause post traumatic distress. In other words, abortion produces an extremely small to non-existent amount of suffering for the fetus itself, certainly much less than most animals suffer at the end of life. Individuals can weigh this tiny amount of suffering against the suffering that would be caused by continuing the pregnancy and morally conclude that the abortion causes much, much less human suffering than the alternative.

Secondly, a pregnancy is not a member of a community the way a separate, breathing human is. For most abortions, which are performed before twelve weeks, many of the key players in a woman's life may not even know that she was pregnant, and she may have reasons for wanting it that way. So ending a pregnancy does not inevitably result in the suffering of grief and mourning in the community the way a loss of a family member would.

Thirdly, as far as the mother is concerned, I know there are those who will say they suffered just as much from miscarriage and/or abortion as from the death of a breathing child. Yes, some people do feel this way. But, other people don't feel this way. That is why it is a choice. If a woman feels that ending the pregnancy would cause her and her family less suffering than to continue it, she can certainly be correct, and that's her call to make.

4) It's not a slippery slope to infanticide or death panels. Abortion has been legal for a couple of generations (and has been around since always) and we are further from infanticide and elder-abandon than any society has ever been. Abortion is a very unique situation and it does nothing to cheapen the lives of breathing humans.

If anything, we are doing more than ever to take care of each other. This trend directly expresses the influence of women in public policy, an influence that all society would be robbed of if we return to the days of second-class citizenship. Self-determination allows us to shape society to be a better place.

04-02-16 11:10Distraction from Enlightenment

Korra: What do you think happens after death?

The Buddha said this question is a distraction from enlightenment.

Isa: Buddha stole that from God. :-)

Or, God stole that from the Buddha. Either way a human wrote it down.

Isa: God says we should not question, too.

"God" is also a distraction from enlightenment.

Korra: Look who's talking! Don't you think that your own time spent discussing these topics, especially the amount of time you have spent debating the existance or non existance of "God", distract you from your path?

First of all, I think you may have me confused with someone else. I don't debate the "existence" of God. I have never claimed that there is "no God." I am not an atheist and I don't argue that position.

Second of all, the time I spend in discussion of these topics is of great utility to me. I am working to attain understanding. My purpose is to continually test my understanding, against every kind of scrutiny, to be sure that it holds up. Another purpose is to find a way to communicate my understanding. Participating in discussions of this kind give me ample opportunity to practice both.

Isa: God created Buddha and said that way before Buddha existed.

Or so you have heard.

Isa: I could say Buddha is a distraction from enlightenment and it would hold the same grounds.

Sure it would. But what difference would that make? The Buddha himself implored people not to let him become a distraction and to forget him if he started to be.

Korra: You can spin the discussion anyway you want, but it won't change the fact that you gravitate towards the topic of God and/or Religion.

Well, sure, but that's not what you said. And then, why not? Religion, ultimately, I find to be a discussion about what is important. Figuring out what is important and what is not important and how to tell the difference is at the center of the path to enlightenment.

It does not appear to be important to invest faith in speculation, and I think that could be what the Buddha was trying to say. In any case, mentioning that point of view in this discussion is hardly out of line.

Korra: I would say that it doesn't really hold up to scrutiny but that's ultimately for you to figure out.

If I have made a statement which does not stand up to scrutiny it would be to my great benefit to find out what it is.

Isa: This goes against what your genius idea of how to reach enlightenment was...."Don't think."

Well, that is a complete misinterpretation of what I said, but that's cool because it gives me an opportunity to clarify.

I said, the key to eliminating suffering is gaining the ability to stop thinking. What I mean is, stop thinking at will, on command, when necessary. It is the ability to turn off the internal voice that is doing the agonizing which results in suffering.

This ability is an important mental skill and a simple one to learn. That is what meditation is for, to teach the mind to simply experience what is present without making mental comments, drifting off in reverie, fretting over the inevitable, etc. Learning this mental focus allows you to turn off agonizing thoughts that cause suffering like a switch. It's great.

Being able to still the mind is just as important as being able to use it well when thinking is what is called for.

04-01-16 11:10Not Equal

Melba: Bernie Sanders wants to give away everything for free. Ha! People need to provide for their own food and shelter! I'm not their mother! I am strongly against the welfare system and public housing.

You will pay for those people to eat and be housed either way. You can either pay for it up front, by providing food and a roof, or you can pay for it later, by providing a jail cell or an emergency room. Only it's a lot more expensive, and hurts a lot more people, to pay for it out the back.

Better to pay upfront and get a deal on it.

Melba: I think we have to find the balance between helping people, and allowing the government to take money from all working people and distribute it evenly among the entire country.

There is nothing in what Bernie has said that has anything to do with being "even." His policies describe only raising the bottom. Where people go up from there is up to them.

Melba: If everyone has the same things (public housing, healthcare, ect.) no matter how hard they work, what is the motivation for anyone to work at all?

How are you getting this from what Bernie is saying? Only people who are not working would have to use the public systems. People who are working would be able to afford to have it a lot better, as much as they wanted to work for and could aspire to, just like now.

Are you seriously saying that if you could have food and shelter, you would stop working for money and just settle for that and nothing else for the rest of your life? I mean, you might want to get an iPad or something sometime.

Melba: I just wish we could go back to the small government mentality rather than scream for more government programs.

I think we should be demanding government programs that work.

Melba: You always act like these are just minor fixes, but what Bernie is saying can never work.

A lot of what Bernie has suggested is already working elsewhere. For example, Finland has full public education, and they are also the most educated country in the world. Canada and many European countries have national or hybrid health care and their health statistics are consistently better than ours. The healthiest and happiest countries in the world are the ones that have the most supportive public services in place.

If those countries can do better, we can too. We already have social systems that are preventing the worst of the chaos and suffering you see in nations that lack them entirely.

But, having a roof and a meal doesn't help people learn how to become self-sufficient, any more than withholding it does. We have to provide the missing piece, the education. The people who cannot obtain education on their own are the ones who need it most. We would be doing them and everyone on this planet a favor if we started to provide it. It costs a lot less than having an uneducated citizenry.

03-31-16 9:10Legalize Weed

LeelaGran: Why are we talking about legalizing weed? Medical, recreational? I don't know. Is that really necessary?

I don't turn to drugs. When I had dental surgery, I didn't take anything before, during or after. (My dentist said I was the only patient he ever had who was brave enough to do the procedure without anaesthetic.)

Why is it that people can't deal with the emotions involved in being alive? It's not shameful -- just deal with them and stop feeling that you need to take something. I'm serious.

Hi there LeelaGran! I understand that you are serious and I would like to seriously address your question.

First of all, you are under the wrong impression about what marijuana does. It does not make you stop feeling your emotions. In many cases, it makes you feel your emotions more intensely. Going emotionally numb is not an effect of weed and not usually what people are trying to achieve when they smoke it, but I'll come back to this.

Secondly, people are using weed recreationally because it's enhancing, not because it's numbing. It creates a very pleasant physical and mental feeling. It enhances flavor, humor, music, the outdoors, sex and movies. Artists and programmers find that it increases creativity and flow. It takes the drudgery out of chores like household cleaning and laundry. It takes the edge off social anxiety. Unlike alcohol, it does not shorten people's tempers and make them quicker to get mad and start drama and bar fights. Instead it eases and relaxes human relations. It makes comedies funnier and thrillers scarier. It enhances the sense of touch, while at the same time, for many patients, it relieves all kinds of serious pain.

So, you are wondering, why would people want that, instead of just "dealing"?

The answer is, first of all, that humans are programmed to seek ease from strain. That is why we invent things like electricity and antacids. It is a perfectly natural and essential survival trait to have the desire to lessen strain and suffering, and practically all human advancement is an example of this.

Secondly, human ability to cope with pain occurs on a range. As you stated, your dentist says you are the ONLY person who rejected anaesthesia. Perhaps you are at the far end of the range, but most people are not able to tolerate that kind of pain. It could be worse for them than it would be for you, so you can't expect everyone to be able to do something just because you can.

Thirdly, some pain is untenable. Constant, chronic pain in particular greatly decreases the quality of life and the ability to accomplish ordinary tasks. Perhaps you don't take pain relievers when you get a headache, but I can't believe you think that no person should ever take aspirin for headache. Do you? I see nothing noble in sitting there in severe pain when relief from suffering is as close as the medicine cabinet. Are you also expecting everyone to be just as patient with their kids and pleasant to their spouse and good at their job while their head is pounding, too? Because they aren't.

When pain is seriously affecting people's enjoyment of life it affects the lives of others as well. Perhaps you are atypical somehow, as your dentist noted, but most people don't want to take the hit on quality of life and human relations that comes from being in pain.

That goes for emotional pain too. (I said I'd come back to it.) Your assertion that people should "just deal" instead of seeking to ease emotional strain is as unrealistic as expecting everyone to reject aspirin and just live with their headaches when it's possible to alleviate them. Emotional pain is just as real as physical pain and causes as much if not more suffering. If there is a simple, natural cure which is acceptable to use for minor headache, why not one for minor heartache?

Which brings me back to the effects of marijuana in particular. As I said, weed does not numb emotional pain. However, it does treat it and alleviate it, not by numbing but by allowing you to feel it with greater perspective, or more humor, or more realistic expectations, or just feel it for awhile and then let it go.

Human relations are hard. As you can see here every day, people are frequently rude or thoughtless, and at the same time sensitive and easily hurt. This is no different from all human relations everywhere. Trying to be a learning brain in a complex culture means acquiring a lifetime of mistakes and regrets and complicated relationships and unexpected outcomes and misfortunes and downturns and tragedies.

Easing the strain of all this is no more a crime than anaesthetic for surgery or aspirin for headache. So much suffering is completely unavoidable; there is no reason to endure more suffering than that.

Thanks again LeelaGran!

03-16-16 9:10Why Not Belief?

Mom2boys: I believe in God. After all, it can't be disproved.

Is it a good idea to believe in any thing that can't be disproved?

Mom2boys: Sure, why not?

Several reasons.

1) You could be wrong. You could be duped. You could have a very inaccurate description of how reality works and what is important. There wouldn't be any information available to establish otherwise.

2) It would take too long. "Any thing that can't be disproved" is a lot of stuff, and it includes everything from a yellow ghost behind the moon to Scientology. Many statements cannot be "disproved" because it is logically impossible to definitively prove a negative, but you could never even think of them all, let alone believe them all.

People don't really think it's a good idea to believe any thing that can't be disproved. Usually just a very few very specific things. However,

3) There is no way to choose one. Particularly in the case of the Abrahamic Faiths, they all make claims that cannot be "disproved," but the claims are contradictory and mutually exclusive. Clearly at least some people must be believing things that are wrong, but they are not able to tell.

4) It's not necessary. Why believe when you can check? It is possible to understand, or not understand, or wonder and even speculate, without having to "believe" in the unsupported.

5) Believing things are true which cannot be shown to be true is a misunderstanding of the idea of truth which permeates all of society with unreason. Many people are duped. Many people are wrong. Many people have very inaccurate descriptions of reality. They could smarten their descriptions right up if only they understood the significance of accuracy, but belief is anathema to accuracy.

Mom2boys: Most of the things we take as facts right now started as mere belief that couldn't be proven.

No, not really. This is distorted and irrelevant, again for several reasons.

First of all, there is zero correlation between an idea once having been believed and then becoming proven. Many of the things we know now are certainly NOT true, also started as mere belief that couldn't be proven. It's not true that the sun and other planets are in orbit around the earth, even though people believed it. It's not true that horoscopes can predict personalities or events. It's not true that alchemists can turn lead into gold or produce a stone of immortality. It's not true that the lightning is caused by Zeus hurling thunderbolts, or that the thunder comes from Thor's mighty hammer. It's not true that humans have hands because they made a deal with the Coyote Spirit to be more like the lizard. It's not true that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck.

If anything, the fact that people "believe" something when there is no other reason to think so is a good reason to be suspicious that it is not the case.

Second of all, most of the "things we take as fact right now" started as observations, not beliefs. Penicillin did not arise from one man's fervent but unsupported belief that diseases could be cured with medicine. It arose from his observation that a particular kind of mold in a petri dish killed other kinds of life. The Curies did not start with a belief that some metal radiated, they began by observing effects at a distance and working backwards from the observation to the source. The early discoverers of the properties of electricity and air were driven by observations of sparks and vapors and vacuums. Newton, Einstein and other great theoreticians began with numbers, which represented measurements of physical and astronomical phenomenon which had been observed by others.

No scientist gets a research grant for a claim he just "believes." There has to be some evidence, some observation, some reason to think the hypothesis could be correct.

Third of all, almost all of the things which were once believed to be the work of gods were discovered to be natural processes arising from the properties of matter and energy. The sun isn't being dragged across the sky by gods after all. It is not necessary to use gods to explain the changing of the seasons. Gods are not responsible for the weather, or the success or failure of the crops, or the fertility of the cattle or the women. Gods are not responsible for the shape and behavior of living creatures, and no gods or magic are necessary to explain how life first arose from the twisty folding of molecules under intense pressure and heat. Everywhere we thought the gods were, turns out they weren't, leaving them only a marginal presence in rapidly dwindling gaps. No beliefs about them have borne out.

Mom2boys: Furthermore, it's a bit egotistical to suggest that all that exists is what we can perceive with our physical senses or what we can measure with our man made instruments (which are also limited by those physical senses).

Well, good thing nobody suggested this and it's a total straw man. Certainly, there could be things popping all around us which we cannot measure or observe. What of them? If we have zero measurements or observations of them or their effects or remains, what can there be to say about them? What can possibly be gained by making up claims about them and then believing the claims are true? What justification is there for the claims of various religions that the gods are purple, or rather, green, or any other description of what has never been observed?

Requiring that understanding be established does not preclude there being plenty of stuff yet to understand and establish. It means we aren't jumping the gun, making a bunch of claims or believing a bunch of claims before they are established when they could be about nothing that is really happening.

Mom2boys: The modern notion to poo-poo on belief is sad and silly.

No, the modern notion to require that claims be accurate is the greatest invention of humans ever, and is responsible for all the great advances which have turned most human existence from constant toil, pain and disease to one of leisure, comfort and cures. Belief in gods and magic books did nothing to advance the human condition for thousands of years. Only by moving away from belief, and beginning to use reason, observation and verification, were humans able to end the Dark Ages and start systematic and rapid growth of actual understanding.

Mom2boys: It's because we humans have the capacity to believe that we have advanced to the point we have. Without belief there's no questioning, no strive for truth.

This makes no sense whatsoever. Belief provides easy answers which could easily be completely wrong. Finding out how things really work, over and over, has required rejecting beliefs and instead persistently pointing to quantifiable observation. Only by rejecting belief in geocentrism did we form the more accurate description of heliocentrism. Only by rejecting belief in divine design could we understand the foundational principle of biology, evolution by natural selection. Etc.

"Believing" is just you thinking something that could be wrong. Striving for truth requires getting out of your head, looking at what is actually the case, and describing it as accurately as possible.

02-10-16 9:50Dharma vs. Religion

CrayZee8: Do you know what dharma is ? if yes what's the difference between religion and dharma ?

The earliest roots of the Sanskrit word Dharma seem to translate as "support," and it quickly comes to mean "that which is established" or "underlying order."

From here Dharma metaphorically goes on to mean many different things in different religions. In Hinduism, it often seems to mean something like "law and order," or "doing one's duty." It's important in forms of Hinduism which emphasize strict performance of ritual acts as a means to spiritual attainment. Other times it seems to mean "right way of living," and means doing one's moral duty, or doing right.

So it is part of the religion but not a religion unto itself.

In Buddhism the word retains some of this meaning, but also "The Dharma" is often used to to refer to the teachings of the Buddha, especially the basic foundations like the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path. Again it would be part of the religion but not the whole religion, like the words of Jesus are part of the bible but not the whole bible.

Another sense of the word in Buddhism is "pheonomenon," or "things that happen." This is how I was taught to use it, and I came to see "dharma" as the universe of things happening, from which, by observation, you can determine both how things are and how to be.

Read more in the Archives.