Jejudo, South Korea
You said that many people have decided Naturalism is the complete answer, but a complete answer in any form is an anathema of Pragmatism, not because there are no answers, but because no one answer can solve all problems. I think you're right that Confucianism and Christianity are not theoretically at odds with each other but practically and traditionally, it is also a practice of ancestor worship in Korea (though Confucius himself is far more ambiguous on this issue). Just before I left graduate school for Korea, a few of my professors put forth the thesis that Confucianism is indeed a type of religion. At the time, I found it unconvincing, living here (Japan was too modernized, I think, for me to see this clearly), it makes a lot more sense.
But my point wasn't to discuss Confucianism, it was to find some way to resolve contradictions in the beliefs of different people with regard to the transendent, ultimate 'reality' you speak of. My solution is to avoid the question, and, if you put a negative spin on what I've said, I think your earlier statement on 'beyond atheism' is a pretty accurate one. But, as Ron pointed out, you have a difficult time persuading anyone who is not already a believer. Your appeal to the Bible or to the intuitive (I sometimes call this the cellular phone inside your head) simply doesn't persuade because there really is no shock of recognition for me, no way to put this in my own experience in a meaningful way (I suspect you would call this denial.). But if you call it denial, you are not being liberal enough. You are not allowing for the possibility that you may be wrong. I freely admit that I may be wrong in acting as if the question were unimportant, but the only reason you and Jim find it escapist or, what, deplorable is because both of you think the question is so damned important.
Furthermore, I have no real interest in persuading you to my position, it wouldn't/shouldn't change your life in anyway for all it does do is avoid giving final answers to questions and all you would have to do is say, "Well, that's just how we do things around here." Believe it or not that's a pretty good justification for many innocuous and interesting things that people do around the planet. On the other hand, the 'God' justification is often used to explain many things that I don't agree with, that I think are appalling, and that I think need to be changed (dancing with snakes, self-mutilation, rape, murder etc.). Denise points out that I shouldn't be scared of well-adjusted believers and I think she's right, but I would also argue that well-adjusted is a conventional term. It means your normal, and the people I like talking to are usually people who aren't trying to be normal. But, I'm not sure how normal you want to call people who can't wait for the New Jerusalem, who seem positively giddy at the prospect of a driverless car during the rapture (Maybe Christians should be barred from driving ). Where is the value of the here and now in any of this?
When given these questions, many here will respond, it's unfair to characterize all Christians by a handful of zealots, but I suspect that those zealots would respond that well-adjusted Christians aren't all that Christian. Denise said we should be leery of any supposed visions people have and I agree, but Pat Robertson has had made vision claims, am I wrong?
Because, regardless of what you say, spiritualism, just as much as science, is still dependent on a kind of proof, people still desperately want to prove that they truly believe the truth and that the truth is what they truly believe. Opeth is correct when he says the responsibility is to prove God's existence, not to disprove it (Though a few hundred years ago it was the other way around). Some people will go to extra-ordinary lengths to do just that. I'm sure you're aware of the Osama bin-Laden video where he giggles as he speaks of his knowledge of engineering, his belief that the two towers would not go down, and his complete surprise that they did, Praise Allah.
A lot of fun was made of that video, a lot of fun was made of his knowledge of engineering (that was my first thought), but he doesn't mean it that way. He means that with his knowledge of engineering, the towers shouldn't have collapsed. His engineering knowledge is sound from his point of view, so what could have caused the collapse?
Why an act of God, of course, Praise Allah.
Again, you might say this has nothing to do with what you are talking about and that's fine because I'm not trying to attack you nor am I trying to persuade you to change your belief. Denise can deny victim status all she wants, but it's a splendid rhetorical status to maintain when, in fact, Christians are a majority in the United States and at this site. Phaedrus, in the Critical States thread, mentions a kind of patronizing manner among Christians with regard to other faiths/non-faiths and he's right. It's always there, but not because you are victimized, but because you are the majority. A while back I remember a thread where one praised Pip and it's unusual comraderie as a result of the fact that we were all Christians. Really? When did that happen? Take it or leave it, Christians still, in practice, maintain an 'us and them' relationship with the rest of the world and this goes specifically counter to the openness rhetoric voiced but, to repeat, hardly ever practiced (Not that Christians are the only ones). This relationship, however, can only be maintained by continuing a line of thought that forces you to take the victim status. Why do they attack us? What did we do to them? Ah, the Bible teaches us that this will happen. We must endure. It's all wonderfully self-righteous.
1)That is, victim status encourages solidarity.
2)This solidarity excludes other who can then claim victim status.
3)This new victim status encourages a new solidarity and a diligence to fight the good fight.
4)And so it goes.
Nothing works better to promote unjustified acts than to believe that unjustified acts have been perpetrated against you.
Now, we seem to accept the basic condition of humanity as a kind of Sartrean terrible freedom, but you see the solution in Christianity (not simply the belief in God, but a specific form of that belief in God), and I think that any transcendent solution is irrelevant to the condition itself. I do not believe, however, that you are wrong in finding guidance, I also believe in guidance, and I'll take it anywhere I can get it. Our disagreement is not, however, over the difficulties of living a life, but over the possibility of revealed/complete truth. I find the idea of exhausted truth to be of little use in my life, you have it at the center of yours.
How do we reconcile this?
One, shrug our shoulders, and let people believe what they want to believe.
Two, you become persuaded to my point of view.
Three, I become persuaded to your point of view.
I think all three positions are false starts. The first is a recipe for silence, it's the agree to disagree argument, it's selfish and static. The second forces you to be persuaded by my arguments without any objective grounding to do so (I have no ground to stand on. ). The third is simply the reversal of the second and is subject to the same objections. From my point of view, you have no more a ground to stand on than I do.
But wait a second, you might say (of course you might not), if you only come to see my point of view, you will have a ground, you will see the value of ultimate, grounding truth, just try it and you'll see. Admittedly, I cannot offer the same assurances back to you, but there's an element of submission, of hierarchy, here. If I give in, if I submit to your ideas without any personal revelation on my part, without any reason other than this promise, I indeed might see the light. But then again I might not. What happens when the promise is broken?
What usually happens when a promise is broken, especially one as important as this?
Betrayal creates hatred (and I'm thinking of Columbine right now). Now I'm not saying Christianity caused Columbine anymore than I would say that America deserved 911, the issues are far more complex than that (Denise use of 'well-adjusted' becomes extremely useful here). But what I am saying is that by focusing on the two-fold God, the transcendent being beyond logic, beyond human understanding (I call this the super-semantic), and, at the same time, a strictly personal God, a God that 'you know to be true through personal revelation' (I call this the subsemantic), you form a dilemma.
There is simply no way to argue about God on these terms.
Now, you might say (or again you might not) say that I'm missing the point, I shouldn't be listening to you, Stephan, I should be listening to God. But unfortunately you've given me nothing outside of yourself that can be pointed to. Your God, because you deny any atrocity, any vision, any other interpretation, any difference at all (the ultimate tends to be like that, you know), you leave me with no other choice but to search, if I were so inclined to submit, for your God, the God you see and feel, and not another. The only way I can do that is by listening and submitting to you (Remember I have not experienced personal revelation either from the Bible or in terms of a vision).
You might say, I suppose, that I'm missing the whole point, I'm not submitting or deferring to you, you are just as fallible as I am, it is God, God, God, it is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. You defer to them, you submit to them. Okay, but in order to do that you have to point to something that is outside you, something that we can both agree on is a proof of God.
You have to make a prediction.
I don't suggest that you do that on my account. I don't wish that kind of responsibility on anyone (believe me, I'm sure we both agree that we already have a lot to handle.)
Ironically, it is the statements that seem the most modest (It's not me, it's God.) and the most common sensical (God would never do that.) that make God inarguable (the strong agnostic condition). Why? Simply put, you sit in judgement of acts in the name of God without, at the same time, accepting a privileged postion in relation to others who also claim to believe in God. You can't have it both ways.
Okay, that's enough for now.