09-11-16 2:44Be Religious or Be Right

Christy the Christian: Christ came to earth to save all humanity! This is what we Christians believe.

Jana the Jewess: I don't think so. If you guys were so right, every Jew would have converted by now.

I agree. However I think it could be said equally of Judaism.

Jana the Jewess: Oh it very well could: But we don't believe in proselytizing others about our beliefs.

I don't find prosletyzing to be the problematic part.

Jana the Jewess: I am aware that I could be wrong, and someone could entirely disagree with what I believe: That doesn't mean they are going to a special place of burning fiery hell because they don't believe what I do.

I agree the damnation shtick is uncool, but that is not what I am referring to either.

Jana the Jewess: What are you referring to?

Your line: "If you guys are so right then surely every Jew would have converted by now."

You seem to be suggesting that Jews actually care about having a religion that is right, and would convert to a religion that is. But if they care about their religion being right then why are they Jewish?

Please understand the sense of my question. If Jews don't believe in Christy's religion because it does not seem true, then what is convincing them to believe in theirs? You said it could very well be wrong. So is there some better reason to believe yours than hers? If not, then why do you believe yours but not hers?

Jana the Jewess: Every religion believes they are right.

That is not the same as caring if you are actually right. From what you said originally, it sounded like Jews cared about being right and would be willing to change their ideas if they thought another set of ideas was right.

Jana the Jewess: The expressed difference here is that while the possibility of being wrong exists, it does not mean that we should incorporate other theological beliefs and call them ours as a result.

So it sounds like Jews do not actually care about being right, they just care about continuing to believe what they have always believed whether it is right or not. Which is typical of the religious of course, but that doesn't make it good.

If that's the case, then your contention that if Christy was right, then Jews would convert, is just in error. Jews would not embrace different ideas even if they were correct because Jews would rather be Jews than right.

Ditto any faith. Which in part explains, I think, why faith religion still exists.

Jana the Jewess: We Jews have our reasons why we don't believe in Jesus. For example...

Thanks, I'm familiar with the argument. I'm really not concerned with the specifics. Suffice it to say, Christy has her beliefs that could very well be wrong about the messiah, you have your beliefs that could very well be wrong about the messiah, etc.

Jana the Jewess: Did you know it takes over a year of intense study to become a Jew? We care about being right, but within the contexts of Judaism.

Well that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about being actually right. That is, believing things about reality which are actually true....having ideas about what is which are useful to have because they correspond accurately to what they describe.

Of what use is being "right" about what your religion claims if what it claims is wrong?

I think it's a shame that religious Jews (and Christians, Muslims, etc.) are not concerned with being actually right. If they were, they could stop worrying about maintaining all these conflicting explanations which could very well be wrong. They could concentrate on having ideas about reality which are actually true...including the understanding and acknowledgement that none of them actually knows anything about God.

Jana the Jewess: Faith and spirituality have nothing to do with logic or science.

I didn't say anything about logic or science. I am talking about the ordinary, observable truth, observable by ordinary people, including the truth that you do not actually know anything about God.

Jana the Jewess: Trying to combine them as such puts a very narrow outlook on theology and the study of epistemology.

That would be very convenient if it was true, however, there is no evidence to support non-overlapping magisteria. It is no more than a social convention.

In fact I think claiming to know things about God is far more of an affront to the limits of human knowledge.

Jana the Jewess: In regards to knowing G-d: We don't claim to know G-d or understand G-d: We claim to obey the commandments in order to have a connection with G-d.

We think of this kind of like a cell phone contract, with terms of agreement, etc. There are 613 specific terms, or commandments.

This is claiming to know lots of things about God, like knowing what God wants humans to do, and that the commandments have something to do with God, and that obeying them creates a connection with God.

There is no reason to think any of this is true. You said yourself, it could be wrong. Acting like you "know" these things about God, when you are perfectly aware that it could be wrong, makes no sense.

Jana the Jewess: Making an absolute statement about knowing G-d is silly...

Claiming to know even a little about God, like you have a cell phone-style contract with Him, or that you know what He wants people to eat, etc., is extremely silly.

Jana the Jewess: Removing religion would not solve the World's problems...

Wow, take that up with someone who is recommending it. I said people should get real, not "remove religion."

Jana the Jewess: ...and it would erode our differences and uniqueness. Removing these aspects from the equation and heading towards a more Marxist view on such things only serves to conform everyone into a specific model.

I don't agree that everybody needs to be wrong in order to be different.

Jana the Jewess: Why however, should it matter to you if I believe in something?

It matters that you do not care about the truth. The truth matters.

Jana the Jewess: I am not saying that faith is based on observable truth: Faith is internalized however we wish it to be.

Yes, faith is putty in our hands. It can be anything, anything we wish, our greatest dreams, the answers to our deepest fears, our own fairy godmother.

This is why it is an extremely poor basis for claims of truth about reality. It has no necessary correspondence.

Unfortunately, that is what people mainly use it for - to assert claims of certainty about reality where the actual truth is that they don't know.

Jana the Jewess: I respect Christy's right to believe whatever she wishes.

Of course people have the right to ignore the truth but that doesn't make it a good idea.

Jana the Jewess: Inferring that people "would be better off" mentally if they gave up religion because we are somehow mentally stunted in our personal choices is silly to me.

Humanity would be better off if people would stop ignoring the truth and pretending to know things that they do not know. These conflicting sets of unsubstantiated claims about what God "wants" are harming society because 1) they are making claims of knowledge which are simply not true, and 2) they are causing unresolvable conflict.

However I am not suggesting "giving up religion." There are religions which don't claim to know anything about gods. That, at least, is honest. I think it could be possible to have honest religion.

Jana the Jewess: I see your problem. Your definition of knowledge does not take into account the Allegory of the Cave. You see, what we think is real is just the shadows cast by the real, because that's all we can see.

The prisoners in the cave have no way of knowing if the claims they hear about it are in fact true, or not.

That is why we invented a marvelous process called checking. If you want to find out if someone's claim is true, you check. If you can't check, then you don't know.

In any case, there is no way to define knowledge so that claims about God's 613-point cell-phone plan or one-year martinizing of the soul qualify. Nothing is known of gods or souls.

Jana the Jewess: Unresolvable conflict exists within all areas of society, not solely religion unfortunately.

Is that a good reason for continuing to exacerbate this particular one?

Jana the Jewess: Taking something out of the equation will not change the inherent nature of humans, or their potential to do messed up stuff.

It already has. For example, taking out institutionalized slavery tangibly improved the human condition. It is a form of error correction.

We could use more of that kind of correction.

Thanks, Jana and Christy!

09-08-16 10:06Corporate Values on Star Trek's 50th

Lol: Did you hear about Caterpillar, the bulldozer company? They are laying off thousands of American workers and replacing them with foreigners, coming HERE on H-1B visas. We're being outsourced at home!

I dont understand what the fuck is wrong with our country or how the CEOs of these businesses live with themselves.

They are obligated to make the most money.

Lol: No, no they are not. There isnt a single person in this world that can make you do the wrong thing.

If they don't, their competitors will. If they don't stay competitive they go out of biz. It's the free-market race to the bottom.

Lol: I didn't say there would be no consequences, I said no one could force them to do the wrong thing.

They are being massively incentivized to do the wrong thing.

Lol: Maybe they need to take a paycut and realize thats the cost of doing business.

Of course they do, but for the most part, they are NOT doing that. The question is, why?

I don't agree with your suggestion that they act this way because they are personally evil (ie, they can crush others and still "live with themselves".) I do agree that there is something wrong with this country but I don't agree the problem is too many psychopathic CEOs.

The actual problem is the incentives of the system. People will mostly do what they are incentivised to do. You could pull these individual "psychopath" CEOs out and put "better" ones in, but they are still incentivised to stay competitive and maximize shareholder value. Any slip in competitiveness will be pounced on by their competitors. Any slip in maximization will be pounced on by shareholders.

The entire system is set up to reward only competitiveness. Sooner or later the other values get thrown under the bus by some player, and everyone else has to do the same to compete, or lose to their advantage.

Lol: But, consumers reward companies all the time for good business practices.

Only until it's time to compete with Walmart, or Microsoft. Look who is winning! If consumer preference for good business practice had any real sway, these kind of corporate behemoths would not be constantly paying fines for malfeasance. They do the malfeasance and pay the fines, year after year, because it helps their bottom line. They continue this, decade after decade, consumer sensibility be damned. And it works. They're Number One!

The reason they are all doing it is because it works. If we want to change this, we have to change how the system works. There will always be psychopaths and/or the massively incentivised to run things this way. We will never run out of them. If we want things to be different, we need to run things a different way.

Lol: I dont think CEOs are psychopathic or evil, nor do I think that about consumers. I just think that most people use their own "necessary" gain to justify participating in the current system.

Personal "necessary" gain is biologically primed, and glorified beyond Heaven in our society. I would not expect "most people" in this culture to be any different. They are acting exactly as you would expect people to respond to an environment so rich with incentives for that behavior.

Lol: Thats the part I dont understand. I've never had much in life in the way of designer clothes, new cars, lots of electronics, etc. and I never will.

So, you are different from them. That's natural, too. When humans were evolving in small tribal bands, it was extremely helpful to have some people in the group be very generous or unconcerned with things, while other people in the group were very concerned with acquisition. This diversity helps distribute humans along a status heirarchy, and ensures that there are people who can take advantage of lean times and people who can take advantage of prosperous times. Both kinds of people are necessary, along with variations all in between.

So, since humans generally are evolved for acquisition for survival - some much more than others - clearly "most people" in a consumer economy will be susceptible to the incentives of over-consumption. It's great that you are a different kind of person, but you are just you. You can't change what type of person "most people" are in this system.

What we can change is the system. Incentives can be deliberately chosen. Priorities can be deliberately chosen.

Letting the "invisible hand" of the "free market" figure out how to live is not working. It's giving priority to the outdated incentives of cavemen, and we are running out of planet which can be converted into cave-hoardings.

Lol: I dont need the newest most expensive things in life and it makes me sick to buy them when others are in actual need.

We should be incentivizing your attitude instead.

I actually think "most people" could go either way. In a generous, enlightened culture with lots of incentives for generous enlightenment, I think "most people" could be far less pre-occupied with the newest most expensive things, especially if we had lots of opportunity for exploration and discovery in its stead.

Since today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, allow yourself to imagine a world where there is no poverty or want, where people can have anything but don't need anything, and I hope you will agree that humans can do better. We are still evolving.

09-06-16 11:47Ignoring the Truth

Houseplant: I don't like to think about my kids going to Hell, but they are claiming they are atheists. I try to tell them about God but they are just ignoring me. They say they don't believe in God anymore. Now, I really just don't know the truth about this at all.

I have been telling you the truth about this for a year and you are still ignoring it.

I can see where your kids get it.

Houseplant: But, I don't believe in the Big Bang theory.

Yes. That is you ignoring the truth.

Houseplant: I have been saying that the whole time.

What you say has nothing to do with it. It is what it is.

"The Big Bang Theory" is supported by mountains of observational and experimental evidence. Every new discovery confirms it further. At this point, claiming to "not believe this" is like claiming the earth is flat. It is like claiming the moon is made of green cheese. It is that ludicrous. So perhaps you should at least look into it.

But, who said anything about the big bang anyway? As I recall, you were worrying, as you always do, about who would "go to Hell." I have been telling you for a year that you do not have to worry about this.

Even if there is a Daddy God, even if the Big Bang was not true - it is, but even if it wasn't - there is still not a shred, none, zero, zip, nada, not one tiny scrap of evidence that "Hell" is real, or that anybody "goes there," or that only Christians know how to avoid it. It's all talk.

That is the truth you are ignoring.

Houseplant: I choose to believe God of the bible.

That is why you still really don't know the truth about this at all. But since it is by your own choice you could at least stop complaining about it.

Houseplant: While back seems you were follow the Hindu's beliefs.

No, not me. My practice is derived largely from Buddhism, with some other tools for truth and beauty thrown in. I'm calling the latest remix "Neoism."

Houseplant: How this working out for you?

My spiritual practice is delivering for me in big ways, thanks for asking! It has allowed me to live in a near-blisslike state of happiness for several years. Because of my understanding, I have an amazing relationship with my husband and kids. We are able to live like kings on very modest means because of non-materialism. We avoid much of the suffering of life's ups and downs through the use of focused attention and non-attachment. Through appreciation, we are able to constantly celebrate the beauty and delight of this amazing existence, and through reason, we are able to understand, with a high degree of certainty, our universe and our place within it.

The truth is not all sunshine, of course. Things sometimes go wrong, and I am often saddened and concerned by the state of the world, particularly with the rapid onset of climate change. The future will contain challenges beyond anything humans have ever faced before. It's scary.

But, my practice allows me to look at the big picture, and appreciate that all is impermanent. It allows me to realistically assess the situation and plan for a variety of outcomes. And, it allows me to have confidence that reason really can save the world, and gives me the passion to pursue activism for a better way.

Houseplant: Believing in high power seems make more sense than anything.

"High Power" does NOT equal=Christianity is true.

Houseplant: Believing nothing made anything sounds silly to me.

It is silly, and it is not the opposite of believing in God, nor it is actually being proposed by anyone. Please stop pretending that this is what I am saying. What is silly is your continued insistence that this is your only option besides Christianity.

Houseplant: What does your day look like?

While the kids are at school, I spent my days writing, doing art or music and agitating for social justice. So you can imagine it is a lot of fun.

Then when the kids get home from school I spend the rest of the day chasing them around and trying to keep up with the housework, homework, husband, and every weird thing that comes up. Also a lot of fun!

Houseplant: My day is full praising God, and giving him all the glory for the big and small things.

Well that sounds a lot like groveling, and a real misunderstanding of actual cause and effect.

My day is full of praising my husband for his great ideas and jokes, praising my kids for their good efforts, praising other posters for their clever posts, etc.

This is the kind of praising that really delivers, because the effect of the praise on the receiver is immediate - they light up, and their gratitude and delight is obvious in the great happiness in their facial expressions and postures. They feel good about themselves, and through human biological and social response, this good feeling is contagious. We have created more joy in the world.

I even save some praise for myself, because I am fairly cool and work pretty hard, and that seems like a pretty excellent accomplishment. It also creates a gratifying feeling of success which brings joy to the world.

When I look at the big and small things, I try to determine the actual causes and effects, and when I can't, I accept that "I don't know" is a true answer too.

Houseplant: One of my biggest joys is talking to you.

I enjoy speaking with you too. You seem like a very likable person and it is a pleasure to know you. However I do wish you would stop ignoring what I am telling you.

09-04-16 11:47Talking about Trans

Amy: How do you become more comfortable talking about transgender issues with your kids? Especially if other family members (like Grandma) have strong concerns about the subject?

PurpleCarrots: I know how dumb this is going to sound, but we did it by watching Ru Paul's Drag Race on TV.

For us the show made gay/transgender people seem like everyone else. Made them human and not scary. I suggest watching all the seasons. By the end of it, you be like,"There just like us! Same issues problems and so on.."

Again, I know how stupid that sounds! But seriously, it opened up conversations in my house.

My friend, I do not think this is stupid at all. In fact I think it is brilliant. Like so many things people fear, seeing that there isn't anything to be afraid of is the antidote. Thank you so much for such a practical and effective suggestion!

09-03-16 11:47Genetically Modified Foods

Poulter: Give me a break already!! Why are people so worried about genetically modified foods?

For one thing, Genetically Modified (GM) crops are so different, they interact with the environment and with the human body in unforseen ways. They can cause changes in the environment where they are grown, in their interaction with the soil, pests, pollinators, etc.

But GM issues are about more than what the food consists of. It is really about who owns and controls the food system. GM crops are essentially "licensed" to farmers. They can't use other pest control systems, they can't keep the seeds for next year, they have to buy again, and the farmers remain entangled in complex obligatory financial arrangements with a few giant agricorps, who control the supply chain and see most of the profits. As industry concentration increases, farming could become little more than modern sharecropping.

Which is not to say that GM should be taboo. But I think it should be handled much more carefully than it is, and for the purpose of making good food, not huge monopolies.

09-02-16 12:17Earthquakes & the Importance of God

VeeBeeDee: Breaking News! There was just a major earthquake in Japan!

Wait, that was awhile ago.

Laura: It was awhile ago but I remember. We prayed for them day and night.

For those who think there is a God, what do you think His involvement with the earthquake in Japan has been? Did God cause the earthquake? Or did He choose not to prevent it? Is He doing anything to help the people of Japan? All, or just some? Which ones, and why those?

On the other hand, if God has absolutely no involvement with it at all - if God is "hands off" in an earthquake - then how could God be considered important?

SamStevens: I'm Wiccan, I have a different view of the divine. We believe The Goddess is merely here to direct the balance of energy to where it is most needed.

Did the Goddess direct the earthquake to occur?

Laura: God has His ways. Is it terrible these people have lost so much and some are alone? Of course, but that doesn't mean God took them away for "shits and giggles".

Did God cause the earthquake?

Sola: I think God will come into play in the days following the earthquake. Those that believe in Him will find great comfort and solace in prayer.

Yes, but that is something that people are doing themselves. That would work whether a God exists or not. So I don't see how God is actually important for that.

Sola: Well, to them, He IS important.

Yes, but something can be important "to" people and not be actually important, as in, relevent to what occurs.

I have no clue what may or may not "exist." But, if there is something "out there" that does not do anything, does not effect anything, and is so negligable that it is indistinguishable from non-existent, then there is no reason to think "God," whatever it is, is important. It seems to have no actual bearing on anything.

If our entire culture and society are structured around something that is essentially unimportant, it reperesents a serious misjudgement of priorities, and a serious misunderstanding of cause and effect. This creates a lot of error.

Sola: It's possible God could be important to the life of each individual in ways we cannot understand.

Perhaps, but there is no evidence of this. What we see occurring is better understood by examining the actual causes and effects which are manifestly present. At least, this approach produces working results.

In any case, should we be structuring our entire culture around this utter blank slate which is undetectable and nobody understands? It seems like a mistake to make the thing which is unknown and no one understands and seems to have no effect a priority over the actual things which we can see are responsible for what happens.

Far worse is that, in the face of a complete lack of understanding, gargantuan tales have been concocted and inserted into the void. These are highly divergent from anything that can be observed in actual reality. Yet the tales are treated as if they are just as important, or even more important, than the things which are actually happening and are actually responsible for what happens. This creates a lot of misunderstanding about what happens, and creates a lot of unresolvable conflict.

The point is, as a society we should not be required to accept that this unknown thing which nobody understands needs to be taken into consideration, and we should certainly not be acting like any particular tale about it is true.

Sola: God may be responsible for the inner strength the people will need to rebuild their lives.

Or, maybe not. There is no evidence of this. And giving some kind of "god" the credit seems to seriously devalue the marvelous natural inner strength of humans to rebuild their lives.

Sola: How can a person's inner strength be devalued, if they believe they derive this strength from their beliefs?

Suggesting that God is responsible for inner strength is failing to acknowledge that people possess inner strength naturally. It does not need to be inserted into them by another being.

Humans are amazing in their own natural abilities to accomplish incredible things. Giving God the credit for the amazing abilities of humans deprives people of the acknowledgment of how amazing they, themselves, truly are.

Sola: People DO find inner strength and peace with their religious beliefs.

That is something that people are doing themselves. It is not necessary for God to actually exist for this to occur. So, is God really important for this?

Sola: You ask a lot of questions. Are you really searching for answers to your questions about God and religion? Or do you just enjoy the debate ?

Oh, I love debate! But specifically, I am looking for ways to successfully communicate my understanding.

Sola: I think it is human nature to want to "fill in the blanks" in areas where we lack understanding.

I agree, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. We should be avoiding it for two reasons: 1) because unfounded claims create a lot of misunderstanding and error, and 2) it shows no respect for the truth.

Sola: Maybe there is a god, maybe there isn't. Maybe there are multiple gods or maybe there is nothing.

I don't think there is any way to address to this question. That is why I think we should focus on a question which can be addressed. Not, Does God exist? But, Is God important?

Whatever kind of "gods" do or do not exist, they don't appear to be affecting anything. Regardless of what people personally believe, I think this conclusion is obvious enough that it is overdue in being acknowledged publicly, and as the only legitimate source of public policy.

Further, I think the obvious lack of any knowledge of gods makes it plain that no religion knows the answer to your quandary a jot more than you do yourself. So, the answers to this query peddled by religion do not seem to be true. They are entirely unsubstantiated and appear to be, at best, wild guesses. This is also overdue in being acknowledged in the implementation of public policy.

Sola: I don't think filling in the blanks is necessarily a "good" or "bad" idea, it's just what we do.

I disagree that "filling in the blanks" is either unavoidable or unqualifiable.

We already "fill in the blanks" today far less than humans ever have. It is a process of error correction. We have been steadily increasing our use of reason and examination over speculation since the Renaissance, up through establishing the separation of church and state, and it continues today as the healthiest countries become ever more secular. So, "blank-filling" is increasingly avoidable, and we should be striving for less of it.

I also think it is reasonable to say that some approaches to understanding produce far better results than others, and that qualifies those as "better" approaches. For example, understanding reality by studying it has produced massive amounts of knowledge which can be used to create processes which work and objects which do things. "Filling in the blanks" with unsubstantiated claims does not produce anything or make anything that can be shown to work. If working is better than not working, then avoiding "filling in the blanks" is better.

Sola: Most of human perception is based on making good guesses based on partial information.

I disagree...a great many things are so well understood and produce such phenomenal applications that our information cannot be said to consist only of mere "good guesses." Some descriptions of reality can be shown to be very accurate. In that way they are different from guesses, the accuracy of which cannot be ascertained.

Sola: Whether or not this is a "bug" or an "attribute" is the source of much debate in psychology and neurobiology.

Perhaps it is both. But which approach works? Between reason and unreason I really don't see any contest.

Sola: No matter how advanced our knowlege becomes, I believe there are some things that are unknowable by humans as they currenlty exist.

If that is the case, then "we do not know" is the most accurate truth in those situations, and unfounded claims to the contrary are completely unwarranted.

Sola: ...but we need to keep track of the fact that the questions we ask and the methods we use to study the world are still limited.

Sure, we don't know everything yet, but so what? That doesn't make filling in the blanks in the meantime acceptable. If he truth is that we have blanks, we need to be honest about that. We need to fill them after there is knowledge, not before. Filling them in from speculation is unwarranted, and produces a lot of error.

Laura: "Did God cause the earthquake?" How the heck am I supposed to know? Go ask a priest or Chuck Norris.

How could they possibly know better than you?

Laura: What? Someone was trying to be smart with me and ask me if god made the earthquake happen.

I was asking you what you think. It was certainly not intending to "be smart with you." The question matters.

Laura: How am I supposed to know that?

If you want to know what causes earthquakes you can study them.

Laura: Does anyone know?

There are people who have studied earthquakes and they have a very thorough understanding of what causes them. Earthquakes appear to be naturally occurring. There is no evidence that they can be "caused." Attempting to assign a role for "God" in this occurrence appears to be an error.

Unfortunately, many of the major societies of our world are structured around errors of this kind.

Laura: So you're a Christian basher. I don't get why people find Christianity offensive.

For one thing, it does not appear to be true. This creates a lot of misunderstanding about real cause and effect.

For another, it is a substantial source of a lot of ingroup / outgroup division. This leads to the devaluing of other human beings as inferior at the most basic level.

Laura: You may think believing in god is an error, however I think it's your error, and that non-believers will be spending eternity in a very hot sweaty place that smells like balls.

Case in point, thanks.

Laura: People might get offended when you say that Christianity appears not to be true.

Well I'm willing to take that risk. The truth matters.

Laura: I've participated in a lot of these debates, and it always seems to divide b/w two lines: people who want solid proof of God's existence, and those that are simply satisfied believing in what they want to believe.

This is why I would rather debate what is important than what exists.

Laura: I'm not saying the truth doesn't matter. I'm simply stating that what you view as true might not be what other people say is true.

That is why it is important to check.

Laura: For some, God is true, despite the fact that you can't prove this by scientific standards.

Things are not true "for some." However that is not the point. I am not trying to claim there is a God or there isn't. What I am asking is, is God important? Since it cannot be determined whether any kinds of gods exist, and if they exist they are indistinguishable from being non-existent, I am questioning how they could be important.

Laura: Well, it would actually depend on how you define "truth". Are we speaking of personal truth or universal truth?

Truth as in statements that correspond accurately to what they describe. I would dispute the term "personal truth" because people use it to mean whatever stuff they have in their heads, no matter how far from accurate it is.

Laura: You seem to be operating on the basis of "if you can't hear it, see it, smell it, touch it, or prove it" then it isn't so.

No, I am saying that if there is no detectable difference between a thing existing and not existing then it doesn't seem to be very important.

Laura: You don't understand.

If you ask someone who believes in a higher power, chances are they will tell you that they *do* "sense" their God and his/her/it's power, and that it *does* have a "detectable effect" on them and their life.

Maybe, but the effect is so negligible that it is invisible to examination. Whatever people may personally think about what happens, no effect can be shown.

Laura: Many religious folk have personal experiences which "prove" *to them* that there IS a higher power. Now, if you (general you) want to argue that scientific proof is the only way to verfiably prove whether or not an event merits "truth", then one could argue back that even science is not 100% accurate, 100% of the time.

Science doesn't have to be 100%, it just has to be close enough to do what people claim it does. Everyone can check to see that the claims hold up.

People's personal experiences which "prove" *to them* that there IS a higher power don't do anything. No one can check them.

They are not equivalent.

Laura: No experiment or even thousands of experiments ever prove anything with absolute certainty.

Absolute certainty is not important. Replicable results with strong descriptive and predictive ability is close enough.

Laura: Therefore science is probably right, but there is always a very very small chance it is not. Should we not accept this in society a little more?

That idea is perfectly well accepted in society. Nobody thinks science is "100%" anything, least of all people who understand it.

Laura: What do you believe in?

I try to avoid belief. I would rather know, or just admit I don't know.

Laura: Well, you "believe" in truth (as you know it), do you not?

I have observed that truth works better than the alternative. If you can show otherwise I'm open to re-evaluating that assessment.

Laura: I'm not speaking of effectiveness.

Well, I am. What better criteria could be applied to determining how important something is than by how well it works?

Laura: This is weird! Are you saying you want to debate religion, but not if God exists!?

I am saying that the question of whether gods exist is boring and it's been done to death in every debate forum on the internet since 1992. I thought I would consider a new angle. Not, does God exist, but, is God important?

Sola: Ok, so this is a different angle on the common debate then, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the subject matter.

I'm glad I could stake out some new territory, lol.

Sola: How are we defining importance then? By cause, or effect?

I'm thinking of important as being of great significance, having a big impact, being critical to success, being worth the effort we invest in it, etc.

Sola: My answer would depend more on whether we were going to discuss whether God caused the earthquake (for me, no), or whether people's faith and belief in him ("existance") would shape the direction or recovery, and how people recovered (and then I would say he plays an important role)

I would say that belief playing an important role is not the same as god playing an important role. The belief is something that the people are doing, even if there is no god. The actual god in question (if there is one) is not doing anything that can be detected.

Laura: RaverLady, how do you KNOW all of this?

I don't KNOW it, in the sense of absolute knowledge. But, upon examination, this is what it looks like.

Laura: You stated previously that you have no clue what may or may not exist, so how could you possibly KNOW that God isn't responsible for our inner strengths, KNOW that it is not necessary for God to exist in order to have this strength, or KNOW that people possess this strength all by themselves, with no outside help?

We can observe that people exist. We can observe that they exhibit strength. This describes exactly what is readily apparent and can be ascertained by anyone.

It cannot be observed that "God" is responsible. It also cannot be observed that The Secret is responsible, or that Qerg is responsible. So how is it valid to posit just one particular undetectable extra element as responsible? We can describe the situation accurately without it.

Laura: Well, it may not "do anything" for *you*, but it certaintly does something for the person who experiences it.

Well, maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. There is no way to tell.

Laura: It doesn't matter if no one can check it.

It matters if you care about accurate understanding.

Laura: You keep saying things like, "I have observed that truth works better than the alternative." Works better for who? You? Or everyone?

For society in general, and for everyone I can think of. That is, so far, I have seen no cases where descriptions of reality derived from observations of reality that correspond accurately to reality failed to work better for society than descriptions of reality that people just said which could not be checked for accuracy.

There may be some outliers I'm not aware of, but I am confident that as a rule of thumb, "truth works better" is fairly reliable.

Just compare what verifiable truth has produced in the last thousand years to what faith has produced. Verifiable ideas appear to be a very accurate description of reality. They can cure diseases, invent incredible devices, and make and do things that really work. Faith ideas appear to be a mythology. They don't match up to reality very well and they produce nothing that can be shown to work. Upon examination, which one looks like it works better?

Laura: Well, since it can't be proven unequivocally that one way of thinking or the other is "right", and it's, as you say, "outside our examination," then it's simply a matter of personal opinion as to who or what deserves credit.

I disagree with this whole concept and here's why:

If there is no information at all which can be examined, then it is not "a matter of opinion" what is true. It is unknown what is true. The statement which corresponds to reality is: "It is unknown what, if anything, exists outside of our examination."

Projecting an "opinion" of any kind into the void is unwarranted. People say things like "God" but so what? People can say anything. There is no indication that it is true. So why arbitrarily go along with what people say?

Specifically, projecting a particular culture's socio-mythic story heritage into the void seems ethnocentric and coersive. There is nothing to recommend one narrative tradition over another...nothing.

Laura: So, with that, who's to say someone is wrong in *believing* that a higher power might be deserving of that credit?

Anyone who examines reality and sees that this belief corresponds to nothing in reality, and in fact appears to conform much more closely to the properties of a mythology.

Laura: How do you *know* with absolute certainty that a higher power isn't somehow involved?

What does "higher power" even mean? It sounds like something somebody made up.

Laura: So, since we can't *prove* whether one's healing is a result of God, the power of believing, or just coincidence, then how can we dispute it?

By pointing out that it makes no sense. There is no indication that this is the kind of universe where things can work that way. It goes against everything that has been learned about matter, energy, space, time, cause and effect. And it devalues what is apparent - people healing - by insinuating that humans are weak and faulty and do not have the ability to heal themselves without "help."

Laura: Either way, the fact is, no one can say with any absolute certainty whether any *one* God is "real", if they are *all* "real", or if there is no God at all. Therefore, one can't know if it is merely a belief or if it is actual "truth".

How could it possibly be actual truth? How could any information at all have been discerned from void?

In any case, we do finally agree on the actual truth. "One can't know." That's what we have for now.

09-01-16 12:17Religious Debate

Debate Time! The topic = Religion and Truth. Let's have a fair debate with no shoving, okay? Begin:

Katy: There is only one God. We are all one family. That is the truth.

MyMy: Um, no. Not even remotely resembling truth.

Kristof: Hey, I thought you said the debate would be fair, that atheists wouldn't be allowed to shove their viewpoint down everybody's throat! And that is not shoving it down anybody's throat?

Hey Kristof, thanks for mildly disagreeing with the format so I could get in on the debate!

MyMy's response was not "shoving" any more than Katy's initial claim was "shoving." Granted, they are both pretty pushy, but this is supposed to be a religious debate. Disagreement of this kind is allowed.

Kristof: But MyMy was disagreeing without backing it up with any kind of explanation or debate.

That is the athiest position. It was Katy who was making the unsubstantiated claim with no explanation or debate. It is incumbent on the claimant to support their own claim. The only requirement of the atheist position is "Claim of truth. Supported? No? Unsupported claim invalid."

If Katy or any person wants to posit claims of solid fact like the number of gods, or the existence of divine human kinship, they should be expected to support their claim. Then when somebody says, "Oh, yeah?" they can say, "Yeah, and here's why." That is what reason is...having good reasons for making claims.

Kristof: At the same time, though, if a Christian had made the same reply to someone else's post, they would likely be getting a very negative response from everyone else.

No, I don't agree that this would happen. First of all, Katy the Christian posts her completely unsupported claims all the time, never with any kind of explanation or debate, and the worst response she ever gets is occasionally, "No, not that," from MyMy. So "Christians" are getting off pretty light around here.

Secondly, I would certainly not be giving a negative response, I would be giving a very positive response suitable to a debate forum - welcoming and polite disagreement, exactly as I am with you.

So, I still don't think anyone was shoving anything, and I think any Christian in this discussion could expect a civil response from me and many others - all the more if they were willing to actually debate their claims.

That is the extent of my disagreement, thanks!

Kristof: Now just a darn minute here!

Hi Kristof! Debate about debate is so meta! So thanks!

Kristof: We're talking about religion here, but you are expecting people to back up claims with proof...as if scientific proof is required as opposed to personal experience.

Nothing is "required" by this forum, not even debate, though debate should certainly be expected.

Kristof: It's apples and oranges - you can't discuss religious claims and then only take into account that which is observed and observable. Can you?

Only if the claims are about the truth. When the subject is true descriptions of reality, the observed and observable are the only reliable source.

Kristof: Someone could take into account a personal experience that is a changing point in their own perception, but has no meaning to anybody else.

People take into account anything they want, but you can't expect people in a debate about what is true to accept it as evidence of the truth of your claims.

It's great that your personal experiences mean so much to you but your conclusions about them could still be completely wrong. There isn't anything in reality to suggest that you are correct in your conclusions. There is no way for any other person to check to see if you are. As far as they know you could be delusional, your claims nothing but the product of your imagination. That does happen. This could be one of those cases. How can anyone tell if it's true, even you?

So personal experiences, while significant, don't qualify as evidence that your claims are true. They could be false.

Kristof: If this is a debate that by default takes on the premise of the hard core atheist, to be challenged by any other religion, then that should be stated as a description for the debate.

The discussion is what the people who are in it make it, which is a constantly changing orchestra. However were you really expecting religious debate without non-theists?

And it's not the doing of the people here that "not-Supernatural Being" is the default position. It is the null set, before any propositions are made. Katy made the initial proposition:

There is only one God. We are all one family. That is the truth.

There is no support for the idea that the first two sentences qualify as truth. None. Pointing this out is NOT "shoving it down your throat" any more than Katy's original claim was "shoving it down your throat."

Kristof: But I also value respect for the dignity of every human being, and a sneering derisive element offends me personally!

There is nothing offensive in saying, No, not true to outlandish unsupported claims.

08-31-16 1:42Everything Free

Bravehart: I wonder what life look like if there was not any money, and everything was free?

I doubt there would ever be no money. People really like money, and accumulating it gives greedy people something to do.

But, when I consider post-monetarism, I can imagine a system where money is optional. Anyone who likes and wants money can pursue various means for accumulating it, while people who are not at all interested in money would not die without it. There should be a minimal level of sustainance that no human ever has to go under, regardless of their earning capacity.

But, people like money, and they like the perks that come from money like shiny toys and higher social status. So I don't think there is any danger that most people would stop working to get more money or things, even in a "post-monetary" society. Not everything would be free, just the bottom.

08-31-16 7:20Proof is in the Pudding

Houseplant: I believe in God.


Houseplant: Still, there are so many things I don't understand. I am thinking about the things I actually know. The things I actually can see with my own eyes. I like that!

That's all there is to it.

Houseplant: But, Jesus says it is very good have faith in God we actually can't see.

Yeah, well fuck what Jesus said. Jesus clearly did not know everything.

Houseplant: I want to believe there was maker of all. I want to believe that God is in control of everything too.

Try not to worry about what you want. It doesn't help, and it doesn't change anything. Just look at what is.

Houseplant: I believe in God! The proof is in the pudding. :-)

Have you actually looked?

I have examined pudding very closely. It is made primarily of milk, with gelatin or starch as a thickening agent and sugar as a sweetener.

Milk is an adaptation developed by mammals for raising young. It is a nutritious liquid secreted by special glands on the female. It probably arose from another interesting mammalian development, the sweat gland. Not only does the milk provide nourishment, but the physical closeness and nurturing of mammalian nursing creates a parent-child emotional bond which ensures that the adult will do everything possible to protect the offspring. This adaptation has been hugely successful in evolutionary terms and has allowed mammals to occupy every niche in nature across the globe.

Most milk for human consumption comes from cows. Cows were domesticated about 10,500 years ago in Turkey, and all of the 1.3 billion cattle in the world today are descended from a group of about 80 individual aurochs who were tamed by Neolithic tribesmen. The body of a modern cow is the result of thousands of years of selective breeding for desirable traits, like health and high meat and milk yield.

Gelatin is made chiefly from collagen, obtained from animal by-products, and has probably been used by humans since the Stone Age.

Sugar is a carbohydrate composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It is produced by plants using energy from the sun. It has been cultivated by humans in the form of sugar cane and sugar beets since ancient times.

I occasionally use Jell-o instant pudding as a treat for the kids. I buy it at Wal-Mart. It is manufactured by Kraft Foods in Dover, Delaware. It is shipped around the world with the leverage of Wal-Mart's global consumer product distribution chain.

So, when I look at pudding, I see a culmination of amazingness. How wonderful that mammalian bonding has produced so many great things - nurturing food like milk, and the beautiful bond of love we share with others. How clever of early humans to have partnered with milk producers of such potential! How dedicated and vigilant of humans to have shaped this creature to provide us this versitile food to grow human populations on every continent.

Also, how magnificent of evolution to shape our love of sugar, a wonderful energy source. Again, how clever of humans to have domesticated and engineered the plants which produce this energy in such abundance.

Not to mention, how clever of human cooks, going back to the stone age, to have combined these interesting ingredients to make such pleasing and fascinating combinations! How brilliant are the many ways we have refined this technology over the centuries. How productive is our engine of commerce that makes this product available all over the developed world.

How wonderful for kids that today, modern science and manufacturing and distribution allow a mom to whip together a quick treat in about five minutes that satisfies a basic human longing for nurturing, nutrition and energy!

Houseplant, this is what you and every human being will see if you actually look at pudding too.

Houseplant: I see that God made man in His image.

No, of course you didn't. Somebody told you that. You did not see it. You can't check it. If somebody hadn't told you, convinced you of it, you would not have any reason to believe it at all.

That "information" came to you from a person, like every single other thing you "think" you know about God. It all came from a person. A person who is no different from you, a person who could not see anything about "God" that you yourself cannot see.

You don't have to listen to what any person says about it, House, even me. Just try it yourself. Get some pudding. Look at it. Stir it around. What do you see?

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