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Agnostism, Atheism, Beyond Atheism, and Deconstructionism

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Brad
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0 posted 11-16-2002 11:16 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Reading the last two columns in the Critical States thread left me with a lot to say. My first thought was to go after Ron's scenario, the Angel or God or whatever, that you just know, somehow, is telling the truth. I was going to respond with the movie 'Frailty' which I just watched tonight and with the guy who refused his baby any other food other than breast feeding -- the baby died of malnutrition -- because God told him to do it.

Stephan and Denise, on the other hand, had already seemed to counter his point, and I liked many of the commitments they are willing to make to one way of thinking. This is the way it is so to speak. Denise, of course, rattled my cage a bit with her taking a victim's stance with regard to Christianity. Christianity is not the most reviled religion on the planet and it's silly to think that it is. Judaism can probably make a good case for it, but I'm not sure the question even has an answer. What would the warrior Buddhist Ikka groups in pre-Tokugawa Japan have to say about that? They were completely destroyed. There is much evidence to support that the Untouchable Caste in India are actually descendants of Buddhist supporters of Ashoka about fifteen hundred years ago (I'm doing this from memory so feel free to correct me). No, the call to victimization is a rhetorical ploy and she knows better than to use it here. So, yes, I'm slightly chastizing you here Denise.  

Christians are a majority in the countries of the West, it isn't reviled more than any other religion, it is talked about more. When was the last time you heard an atheist have a chance at the presidency?

Unfortunately, they ultimately refer back to the Bible, a text, a group of words. While much has been talked about in terms of revelation and the word of God, it's still in words. But words are never transparent, they are as Derrida's deconstructive theory endlessly points out, a signature of absence. When you use the written word or the spoken word, you are signaling something that is not there -- even at the very least you are pointing out the significance of something that is happening 'now'. You use the words because something was missing without them. If you didn't feel an absence, you wouldn't need them.

But the certainty (even as a hypothetical) is also reflected in Opeth's posts (which I also like by the way) whose "reading" of the Bible is at odds with Stephan's and Denise's. How do we reconcile these three views and their certainty?

Well, all this brings us back to Ron's scenario. What I found interesting here was not God, not the statement, but the utter ease with which he can throw in, to my mind essential, modification: You know this is true, you know this is happening and, above all, you know the TRUTH.

Textual, revelational, empirical, or logical statements are subject to epistemological doubt. To think otherwise, in my opinion, would be not to see us as human beings, and ultimately, if it were true, we would have died off long ago. This doubt is a positive force in that it allows non-evolutionary adaptation (thought it may be precisely an evolutionary adaptation that created it.   ) without the need for any kind of formal consistency. You can change your mind without realizing you changed your mind.

The opposing side to this is what Derrida calls the metaphysics of Presence: the idea of the absolutely known to be true, a full presence of the thing in itself. Deconstruction's point is to free us from this need for absolute certainty. Whether or not deconstruction has failed in this endeavour, that it has become just the newest, "Now we know we don't know, stupid" mentality is arguable, but I'll save that for another time.

And that brings us to agnosticism and atheism. Phaedrus and Hush make much of the distinction but isn't that distinction simply between, "I don't know if there's a God," and "I know there is no God."? There is a third definition, "I can't know" but that muddy's up the waters too much here for the moment and, I hope, I can show you how both Hush and Phaedrus have a point in different realms.

For if we return to Derrida's point about a lack of certainty, if we see language as a signature of absence, we find ourselves in a huge dilemma: what he sometimes calls the abyss or infinite responsibility takes over and we have no clue what to do. We have no clue how to act because, given this uncertainty, we have to decide what is right or wrong, what is the proper action, but it is ultimately only us who can do this deciding (Actually, it's a lot more complicated than that). What does that mean? We have to take responsibility for our actions because we have no other recourse but ourselves.

We still have to act.

So, I see no contradiction, logically or not, between the point Phaedrus was making and the one Hush is making. A person can say quite correctly, "I don't know if there's a God," and act as if there is or act as if there isn't. You don't need to presuppose a belief in order to fulfill your functions in a society. There is simply no need to collapse the positions into one.  In fact, I don't think we should collapse the positions, we can agree on much if we simply start privileging the act over the thought: What is the right thing to do, not what is the right thing to think.  This is, of course, backwards from most traditional ways of thinking.

[added note]: By this last statement, I don't mean 'going through the motions' exactly, but nor am I going to deny that that is important. It's a lot more complicated than that.

One final comment, I put beyond atheism in there for still a third group. Beyond atheism is simply the point where the questions being asked about God simply no longer seem all that important. They can be fun and interesting and informative, but ultimately they simply hold no revelance to my life.

That is until Bill Paxton knocks on my door.

[This message has been edited by Brad (11-16-2002 11:25 AM).]

Phaedrus
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1 posted 11-16-2002 02:32 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus

Brad,

Thereís a whole bucketful of things I donít agree with here:

quote:
So, I see no contradiction, logically or not, between the point Phaedrus was making and the one Hush is making. A person can say quite correctly, "I don't know if there's a God," and act as if there is or act as if there isn't.

I see quite clearly a contradiction in thinking one way and acting another, that would allow me to worship a God I didnít believe existed and just as easily kill a human being though I thought it was wrong to do so.

quote:
You don't need to presuppose a belief in order to fulfill your functions in a society.

Even a belief in society itself?

quote:
There is simply no need to collapse the positions into one. In fact, I don't think we should collapse the positions, we can agree on much if we simply start privileging the act over the thought

Can you stop the collapse? Isnít it true that as soon as a person is presented with a dilemma the process of deciding kicks in and the person arrives at the best attainable response within the available time.

quote:
What is the right thing to do, not what is the right thing to think. This is, of course, backwards from most traditional ways of thinking.

The question of right and wrong is a moot point unless you specify exactly whose right or wrong weíre talking about. My view is that every human being arrives at their own version of right, wrong simply doesnít come into it, no human being has ever done anything they thought was the wrong thing to do.

Thinking and doing are inextricably linked as I pointed out above (Hush dust down youíre views on self-interest Iíve a feeling I may need them   ) people always do and think the right thing, it isnít possible, on an individual level, for them to do anything else.

[This message has been edited by Phaedrus (11-16-2002 02:34 PM).]

Essorant
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2 posted 11-16-2002 02:46 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

At the end of this thread all of you will be Essorantists, you'll see!  


[This message has been edited by Essorant (11-16-2002 02:46 PM).]

hush
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3 posted 11-16-2002 04:46 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Brad-

So what did you think of Frailty?

I don't think it was necessarily a good movie, what with the mediocre acting, the unbelievable dialogue, and the uncountable twists and turns- but it sure as hell drew me in conceptually if nothing else, and I've been thinking about it for the last few days, because I don't quite know what to make of it- were they actually killing demons? Or is it like an Edgar-Allen-Poe-Telltale-Heart phenomena, and you're supposed to doubt what you're being told because the source isn't exactly credible (or... uh.. sane)?

Sorry, didn't mean to go too far off on a tangent, I'll be back later for the rest of this.
Ron
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4 posted 11-16-2002 04:53 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
What I found interesting here was not God, not the statement, but the utter ease with which he can throw in, to my mind essential, modification: You know this is true, you know this is happening and, above all, you know the TRUTH.

That was an attempt, and obviously a futile one, to circumvent the "It can't really be God" arguments I knew were just around the corner. My point was that even if you fully accept the scenario as outlined, it doesn't change the nature of faith. Unconditional trust in God eliminates contradictions.

Of course, as I just posted to that same thread, doubt is just another word for thought and you can't really have one without the other. Cogito, ergo ambigo.

That certainly doesn't mean that I agree with Derrida or his deconstructionism. I think we've had that discussion and you probably remember my conclusions. If you deconstruct deconstructionism, you end up with the same mindless babble you get when deconstructing anything else. The points Derrida makes should be considered interesting but otherwise quite useless.

The argument that deconstructionism frees us from Presence presumes that we need to be freed. I don't believe we do. It then tries to do that by denying the existence of absolute certainty. I don't believe that it does so convincingly. I prefer to think of absolute certainty as a journey, rather than a destination. I think it exists, but if it didn't, we'd still need to invent it so we'd have some place to go. If I wanted to get rich, I might set a goal, but the process would be one of accumulating money. As I accumulated more and more money, my definition of rich would change, and at some point, I might realize that rich, being a relative term, was unattainable. I would still have a whole lot of money, though.

I believe absolute certainty is impossible, and I even think I understand why. Absolute certainty is both the antithesis to faith and the foundation upon which faith is built. Were I to attain absolute certainty, I would have no need of faith. But were absolute certainty to not exist, there would be nothing in which to place my faith. Still, while I believe absolute certainty is unattainable, even undesirable, I also believe the attempt to find it brings its own rewards. Put another way, I would still have a whole lot of money.

As to the differences between agnosticism and atheism, I've already expressed my opinions. Belief is a continuum, and both absolute denial and absolute faith are unattainable end points. By Phaedrus's definition, the world is filled to overflowing with nothing but atheists. No one since Jesus has whole-heartedly worshipped God, and I think there's evidence to suggest even Jesus had doubts. I disagree with his quote from Michael Martin, not on the basis that certainty is needed to justify atheism, but rather because I think it distorts the meaning of the word by placing too much emphasis on belief and too little on action. I don't believe we will ever travel faster than the speed of light. That is much different from the growing body of scientists who reject the notion as nonsensical. My disbelief is passive and I certainly won't be hurt should I be proven wrong. Rejection is rarely passive. To my mind, an atheist doesn't just doubt God, as anyone with less than absolute certainly must do to some extent, but actively rejects the possibility of God.

Put another way, "I disbelieve" is not the same thing as "I don't believe." Throw in "I believe" and I think it's clear we need three divisions because there are necessarily three conditions. Where Phaedrus chooses to place himself is up to him, of course, because none of us can exist wholly in just one division. We ALL straddle the lines. Cogito, ergo ambigo.
Denise
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5 posted 11-16-2002 05:03 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Brad, I wasn't playing victim and certainly didn't intend to rattle your cage. Honest! I was merely stating that in religious discussions in which I have been involved, the level of 'angst' has been much more pronounced concerning Christianity than the others being discussed. Perhaps this is partly so due to the 'unfair' exclusivity that people perceive that Christianity teaches. I don't see it as exclusivity, when God's message and plan of redemption is for all mankind. I see it as just the opposite. But some folks just can't seem to get past the idea that God could make a decree, a plan, tell it to us, and then invite whosoever will....that just seems so dogmatic and narrow to many and I guess people, as a whole, are far more comfortable believing that there are many paths or plans.

I also believe that there are those who do hate Christians simply because they are Christians. It doesn't surprise me since it's stated in the bible that this will be so and I definitely don't feel victimized in the least. I agree with you that we in the West certainly do have a much easier time of it, persecution-wise, than those in other areas of the world, but we do experience it, believe me, albeit to a lesser degree.

Sorry again to have rankled your nerves, Brad. I hope I've made myself more clear.  
jbouder
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6 posted 11-16-2002 08:09 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

quote:
Beyond atheism is simply the point where the questions being asked about God simply no longer seem all that important. They can be fun and interesting and informative, but ultimately they simply hold no revelance to my life.


This sounds like avoidance to me.  At least the atheist has the cajones to deny God's existence and the agnostic has the honesty to say "I don't know."  "Beyond atheism" sounds to me to be more of an escape position than anything else, refusing to confront the facts nomatter how compelling they may be.  I don't get it.

Jim
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7 posted 11-17-2002 03:20 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Jim- no, not avoidance, I don;t think.

I have to force myself to ask questions about God, simply because otherwise I would just let it slide. Not intentionally, in an attempt to avoid pressing questions, but rather, because the questions aren't very pressing to me.

I actually think that I often fall into this category- I often don't have the drive to pursue religious questions. What is, is. I often think I'm happy leaving things at that- but I also think it's important to explore other positions.
Brad
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8 posted 11-17-2002 07:34 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Briefly and perhaps unsatisfactorally, let me address Jim's, Ron's, and Hush's concerns by talking about the movie, Frailty.

The truly scary part of the movie for me is not whether the Paxton character really had a vision from God, but that people think that having a vision from God can somehow put them above the laws of the world. The discussions over the movie will, of course, revolve around whether his visions were true or not but my point would be that he is a murderer even if he really did have a vision.

God, higher truth, or whatever can never be an excuse for actions in this world.

Ron
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9 posted 11-17-2002 10:01 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
God, higher truth, or whatever can never be an excuse for actions in this world.

Depends on your viewpoint, I guess. I've never seen any evidence that non-personal revelation exists, but let's assume for a moment that it does and there was reason to trust it.

This is almost a clichť in the SF world, but let's play the game any way. In 1931, you are told who the next chancellor of Germany will be. It happens. In 1933, you are told the same man will rather suddenly become the President of Germany. It happens. In 1935, you're told this same man will soon put into motion events that will ultimately cause the death of millions of people. Given such revelation, and the opportunity, would you kill Hitler? Or, to phrase it in parallel with your absolute dictum, would you be justified in trying to prevent WWII?
Brad
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10 posted 11-18-2002 12:08 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

It's a misleading scenario because most of us already know that happened and most of us would like to change it. A better one is that it's 2002 and you have a revelation that George Bush will launch a nuclear strike in 2003. Are you justified in assassinating Bush?

If you do, it is my contention that you are insane and you should be treated like you're insaneeven if Bush does launch a nuclear strike in 2003 .

Revelation or not, you still have to play the game by our rules, there is no higher authority to appeal to if what you're doing goes against what the rest of us think is wrong.
Ron
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11 posted 11-18-2002 01:30 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

I agree, Brad, though I suspect for entirely different reasons. You can't call the Hitler scenario misleading simply because we already know what happened. A persons who "knows" the future is in the same situation you and I are in as regards to the past.

If I lived in 1930 and knew what I knew now, I still don't think I would try to kill Hitler. I would, of course, do much else to STOP him, but I think "the end justifies the means" is the most dangerous proposition in the human repertoire. When push came to shove, though, and 1939 approached without having been able to stop his madness, I honestly don't know what I would do. Do I hold my own convictions above the lives of millions? Of course, the exploration of conflicting ethics is the foundation of philosophy.

BTW, to say that everyone must play the game "by our rules" is to imply that those rules should never change. Hitler certainly didn't play by those rules. But neither did Joan d'Arc, Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. The only way the rules ever seem to get changed is to break them. History then decides whether the rule-breaker was a monster or a pioneer. Personally, I think Bush is a rule-breaker, too, but I guess the jury is still out as to whether he will be monster or pioneer.
Stephanos
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12 posted 11-18-2002 09:57 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Doesn't speaking of "rules" without an absolute lawgiver create many problems?  What would one, admitting no God, precisely mean by saying that Hitler didn't "play by the rules"?  I suspect that these are questions more for those who view the world such as Brad does, than Ron... But what standard is there to affirm that Hitler's society was playing by the "wrong rules", besides world power and military might?  What if Hitler's Germany was such that it was the majority power?  In other words, what is to prevent the rules from being totally arbitrary on a societal scale?  


Some may refer me back to a "basic human decency", that prefers the good of the whole and tends to preserve societal order, and then assert that this will always win out.  But then my question ... Seeing that not all humans seem to have or abide by this basic sense of decency, what is to prevent the scales from tipping the other direction?  How are we assured that "decency" is not the pathological condition that just so happens to have the upper hand, while malevolence is the truest of our nature, even though presently contained?

Without an absolute governor of humanity and nature, we cannot truly account for a belief in uniformity of nature.  The best we can say is that such things appear to be uniform.  What is to prevent the "human decency" trait from giving way completely?  If it did, what recourse (being naturalists) would we really have?  Cruelty is part of nature as much as benevolence.  It seems only a lawgiver can arbitrate between the two.  "Might makes right" seems unavoidable in naturalism.


"God, higher truth, or whatever can never be an excuse for actions in this world"


I disagree.  Higher truth (than arbitrary humanity) must ultimately be the foundation for actions in this world. or else ...


Man, earthly truth, or whatever can always be an excuse for actions in this world.


Stephen    

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (11-18-2002 10:23 AM).]

Stephanos
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13 posted 11-18-2002 10:16 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

"you still have to play the game by our rules, there is no higher authority to appeal to if what you're doing goes against what the rest of us think is wrong."


Brad,

If the tables were turned, couldn't your words easily become the maxim of totalitarian government and despotism?  "The rest of us" can always be taken to mean "other than you".  If you are ever oppressed, and you realize that the State wasn't such a great god after all, then God (in his reality) may become a bit more relevant to you.


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (11-18-2002 10:19 AM).]

Brad
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14 posted 11-18-2002 10:39 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

Yes.
Phaedrus
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15 posted 11-18-2002 12:08 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus


Stephan,

Interesting questions I had a few thoughts while reading them:

Have you ever watched a group of kids playing? It doesnít matter what game their playing, it could be a game using marbles, one that they just made up perhaps, but whatever the origin of the game they always have a unique sense of fairness. They lay down or agree the rules and when a rule is broken they voice their distaste as a group, there is no perceivable ďlawgiverĒ only an understanding of the rules and the knowledge that without an adherence to them the game canít be played.

Into the playground comes a bully, he doesnít want to play by the rules all he wants are the marbles, the original kids have to make a decision. They either hand over their marbles and stop playing the game or they stand and fight. Thatís what happened in 1939, a bully went through Europe threatening to take all the marbles until some kids decided to stand and fight. They were fighting for their marbles, their right to play their game unhindered but most of all because they recognised that heíd broken the rules.

There is of course another option the kids could have taken, you touched upon it in your post, what would have happened if the kids had decided to join the bully instead of standing and fighting and was there reason to stop them doing that?

The only reason I can see that would stop them is the realisation that as soon as they joined the bully they would lose all hope of ever playing the game again. You see I donít think man is a noble beast instilled with a sense of decency, man is driven by self-interest. Sometimes self interest dictates that heís a bully but for every bully thereís another kid whose self-interest requires him to play the game by the rules, he just thinks itís better for everyone.

Brad,

Your 2002 dilemma is extremely interesting especially if you apply it to similar scenarios:

Itís 2002 and the president of a world super power has a revelation that a country is building weapons of mass destruction and has the intention of using them. Does that super power have the right to declare war on that country and invade it to remove the potential threat?

In a country where the fervent belief in the existence of God is prevalent is a revelation by Him not as good as a revelation by the Intelligence Agencies?

Thanks for the chance to read and reply.
Stephanos
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16 posted 11-18-2002 05:52 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Phaedrus,

Your answer seems to be summed up in one of your quotes.

"Sometimes self interest dictates that heís a bully but for every bully thereís another kid whose self-interest requires him to play the game by the rules, he just thinks itís better for everyone."

It doesn't really satisfy my question however.  You are just restating the problem of naturalism for me.  If a world-view places self interest as arbiter on a planet of many "selves", it will always be a power struggle.  Bullys, as I remember from grade-school days, never cared that they could no longer play the games.  They had their own games.  If things like fairness, Justice, and equity are understood as merely conventional, what assurance do we have that they won't be overturned and one day forgotten?  


Even using your analogy of a playground ... there are adults who create the games for kids and establish the rules.  Even if games are created by the children themselves, the real function of the playground authorities is to umbrella the playing of all games with such concepts as fairness and respect.  No matter what games we play on Earth, my argument runs, there must be standards  above the players that are binding to all.  Else the big kids will rule on the playground.  No appeal can be made to the teacher!  Unfortunately in the world, this kind of thing results in more than a ruined game of hop-scotch and a few hurt feelings.  Blood is shed.  Atrocities are done.  And the ruling class doesn't mean the majority in number necessarily.  It can mean a few with the most weath, guns, charisma, or whatever controlling element will be used.  

notice that Communism and Marxism were founded upon atheistic worldviews.  This is a creed that dictators should love.  Seeing that the "rules" of the games are completely arbitrary, as naturalism necessitates, what is to prevent the traditional rules and games from someday being forgotten altogether?  Like evolutionary theory ... In the survival of the fittest, what is to prevent the cruel and evil from prevailing?  In a theistic worldview, it is God who says who is fittest and who is not.  "The meek shall inherit the Earth" ... "The First shall be last, and the last shall be first" ... "The foolish things will confound the wise".  I have an assurance that there is an ultimate justice in the universe that can't be had through naturalism.  The best that believers in a Godless universe can do is hope and strive for the best.  But they will always find themselves hoping and striving for that which other powers deem "not the best".  Self interest prevails right?  Actually the brawniest of self interest prevails.


Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (11-18-2002 05:59 PM).]

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17 posted 11-18-2002 07:00 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus


Stephan,

There is no assurance, we may all end up as bullies, the only thing thatís stopping us is our in-built preference towards self-interest. Being a bully in a world of bullies would be less preferable to not being a bully, playing the game and keeping your marbles.

Itís true that kids will keep to the rules even when those rules are dictated by another, a teacher for instance, but I maintain that that isnít always the case. Unless you can convince me that kids never make up their own games and never stick to the agreed rules they lay down my argument stands Ė there is no need for a higher lawgiver for rules to exist.

quote:
it is God who says who is fittest and who is not

Are you suggesting that in 1939 God decided Hitler was the fittest but in 1945 he decided he wasnít or are the vagaries of humanity beyond Gods intervention?

quote:
The best that believers in a Godless universe can do is hope and strive for the best.

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, God doesnít play with dice Ė we do.

Thanks for the chance to read and reply
Brad
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18 posted 11-18-2002 07:25 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen and Phaedrus,

Again, my answer is yes.

All these things are possible. I have no guarantee to offer you, the guarantee is precisely the problem. All atrocities are justified by a higher truth whether that be theologism, scientism, or dialectical materialism.

It is no accident that the Communist party of the Soviet Union declared itself infallible.

But the "elimination" of higher truth or the refutation of infallibility do not guarantee the end of atrocities. It only eliminates an excuse.

Only we can eliminate atrocities.

And from that, Ron said that foreknowledge is the same as history. I couldn't disagree more and it seems an odd thing to say given his earlier comment that revelation is always individual. History is not an individual endeavour, revelation is.

When it comes to history, historians check each other. It's the possiblity of fallibility that forces us to check each other. With revelation, what check is there?

And Phaedrus, intelligence agencies can and must be checked.

Brad
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19 posted 11-18-2002 07:48 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Jim,

I was reading one of the links you posted in the Critical States thread:

quote:
Sad to say, nowadays many scholars are more interested in the challenges of the discipline of hermeneutics itself, than in the Bible that hermeneutics should help us handle more responsibly.


I'd put myself in that camp.
Stephanos
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20 posted 11-18-2002 09:21 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Phaedrus,

you wrote, "Being a bully in a world of bullies would be less preferable to not being a bully, playing the game and keeping your marbles."

Of course, I would agree.  But not all would agree.  Those weaker can always hope to rise and elimate the stronger.  And "not being a bully" in a world of bullies means bearing the yoke of whatever is over you.  This, though preferable to being an oppressor (which I mostly am assured of because of what God says about it), is not really a great world to imagine.  For who says that not being a bully in world full of bullies means you get to keep your marbles...  That's up to the bully.  Communism was a good example of limiting marbles and human expression itself.  I don't think democracy is the holy grail.  But I do find it interesting that the freedom we enjoy presently in America (though America has strayed far away from her foundations) is a direct result of our founders holding  certain truths to be "self-evident", and not conventional in nature.  Brad, and perhaps you also, thinks that certain modes of world etiquette can be maintained as self-evident apart from absolutism.  I think it's wishful thinking, and impossible.  In fact the Bible itself prophetically counters this line of thinking by painting a pretty dark picture of the world near the consummation of things... Where "nation rises against nation", and "Mother against daughter" etc.  


Anyway more time must clarify and reveal this principle.  However, I think it's pretty evident from the world right now that it's at work.  It is also God's grace that men are not currently allowed to be as wicked as they might.  There is a "cap" on lawlessness by the grace of God.  When God brings judgement in such a way as to remove the restraint, what will be "self evident" then?  Every man will be a law unto himself.  There is a time predicted when AntiChrist will rise fuller than ever before.  We saw it in Hitler and many other despots.  We will see it again, in greater  technicolor than before.  Technology, knowledge, and increased power has upped the ante.  


"Unless you can convince me that kids never make up their own games and never stick to the agreed rules they lay down my argument stands Ė there is no need for a higher lawgiver for rules to exist."


Unless I can convince you?  If history hasn't, I guess I never will.  But with no lawgiver rules can never matter.


"Are you suggesting that in 1939 God decided Hitler was the fittest but in 1945 he decided he wasnít or are the vagaries of humanity beyond Gods intervention?"


No.  I am suggesting that God is a God of justice.  And the day of judgement is coming.  The spill has been allowed to run very far before it is wiped up, I admit.  The wheat has been allowed to grow with the tares for a long time, to use the parable that Jesus told.  But atheism offers this scenario forever, with no final satisfaction of justice.  If you are asking if God had a hand in the rise and fall of Hitler, I say yes to both.  God has intervened in History many times.  It is his prerogative to do so according to his own schedule.  But those who believe world ethics to be conventional have no compelling complaint against Hitler, and can only be glad that at that time, those who happened to feel differently had bigger guns.


Stephen.


  
Stephanos
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21 posted 11-18-2002 09:48 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

to say that God really isn't relevant, or doesn't matter is to live in denial.  Imagine men who breathe oxygenated air saying that it doesn't matter if plant life exists or not.  You are willfully unaware of God's relation to you and your total  dependence upon him in a myriad of ways.  The same goes for us all.  I know it is the most unpopular of Biblical assertions but it is nonetheless true.  Man's autonomy is a myth, not God's existence.

What you propose to be "beyond atheism" is really not beyond it.  It is just an assertion that for you, the question doesn't matter anymore.  This is not fundamentally different than the atheism of a more aggresive atheist.  It is just a further progression down the same road.   It is not the angry mob spirit, but "betraying the son of man with a kiss".  It's one thing to act as an enemy of God.  It's another thing to say "He's not even worth my enmity".  It is calling impotent, the God who gave you yourself the being you enjoy.  What does that assertion finally make you?  More than escapism, as Jim said, I think this is a more settled and hardened form of unbelief than the others.  It has moved beyond caring.


Stephen.  

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (11-18-2002 09:50 PM).]

Denise
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22 posted 11-18-2002 11:31 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Brad,

quote:
The truly scary part of the movie for me is not whether the Paxton character really had a vision from God, but that people think that having a vision from God can somehow put them above the laws of the world. The discussions over the movie will, of course, revolve around whether his visions were true or not but my point would be that he is a murderer even if he really did have a vision.


The truly scary part of the movie for you is something that need not scare you at all, in the sense that you refer to, if you disect it. To begin with, who are "these people" [in my best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation!] that would think in this way? To me it would seem that they would be deluded and/or mentally ill and would manifest this proclivity to do themselves or another harm whether they ascribed it to a vision from God or from hearing the voice of Satan, or to just hearing disembodied voices. It is not something that would happen in society to/by the average well-adjusted person, whether they believe in God or do not believe in God.

Even if I granted that personal visions/revelations from God, in the sense as in the movie, were possible today, which I don't, they could not encourage violating societies generally accepted moral law, because moral law in fact originates with God. So I would agree with you that Paxton would be a murderer...period. God could have had absolutely nothing to do with this particular vision, but suppose that He did give a vision to someone...and the person misunderstood what was being revealed? That's something that would have to be considered a possibility, given the possibility of a vision/revelation being given in the first place, I would think.

Just as God did not impress upon people to crash planes into the World Trade Center or drown babies in a bathtub or drink cyanide, or set themselves on fire, He has nothing to do with any atrocities that people commit. None of it can be laid at God's doorstep. The full responsibility rests with each individual committing such acts against society, no matter who they ascribe it to.

Ron,

quote:
That was an attempt, and obviously a futile one, to circumvent the "It can't really be God" arguments I knew were just around the corner. My point was that even if you fully accept the scenario as outlined, it doesn't change the nature of faith. Unconditional trust in God eliminates contradictions.


Sorry! Didn't mean to give you a hard way to go. My mind just shuts down when faced with impossible scenarios. I knew what you were driving at and I agree with many of your points, especially the one of a parent giving bits of information at a time to a child which may seem contradictory to the child, but the scenario that you had happened to choose about God appearing and saying that "Jesus is not my Son", well, I just think that that is too much of a contradiction for faith to overcome when the whole basis of the Christian faith is in who Jesus claimed to be and in what He was able to do for us because of who He claimed to be. So by negating that, faith itself is negated, not proven. Faith/trust, in and of itself, is not the foundation, but Christ, the object of faith/trust, who He is and what He did, is the foundation, hence my mind shutting down with the scenario that you used.

[This message has been edited by Denise (11-18-2002 11:35 PM).]

Ron
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23 posted 11-19-2002 06:28 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Stephen asked Doesn't speaking of "rules" without an absolute lawgiver create many problems?

Go grab an oral thermometer, Stephen, and take your temperature. I'll bet it's within a few degrees of 98.6? Strangely enough, those who believe in creationism have pretty much the same temperature as those who believe in evolution.

quote:
Brad said And from that, Ron said that foreknowledge is the same as history. I couldn't disagree more and it seems an odd thing to say given his earlier comment that revelation is always individual. History is not an individual endeavour, revelation is.

Your implication, Brad, is that our perception of reality should only be determined by consensus, with I think too much emphasis on the word only. I know exactly what happened to me yesterday, and anyone who disagrees with my perceptions would have to persuade me their interpretation was more valid than mine. Not impossible, but certainly difficult. What I do today will, in large part, be predicated by what I know happened yesterday. If I had equally certain knowledge of what was going to happen to me tomorrow, I would have NO CHOICE but to act on that knowledge, too.

And, yes, I'm well aware that consensus dictates the difference between sanity and madness. That usually affects our actions, however, only after the consensus is reached to lock us up. The person who KNOWS what happened to them yesterday rarely questions their own sanity. A person who was convinced they knew the future, I think, would be little different.

quote:
Denise said My mind just shuts down when faced with impossible scenarios.

Me, too, Denise.

But that's really the whole point of my little scenario, outlandish though it might have been. If I could "understand" the contradiction, there would be no need for trust. For me, it's no different when I'm faced with the contradiction of a thousand different religious choices, whether it's the relatively minor differences between the Catholics and Protestants or the much bigger differences between the Christians and the Islams. All are part of God's plan. And I trust that when I "grow up," the contradictions will finally make sense.
Brad
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Jejudo, South Korea


24 posted 11-19-2002 10:55 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ron,
I think it is the other way around. I never said 'only', you did. I talked about history is done, you talked about what happened yesterday. You are more than welcome to write a book about yesterday and, as it should, it will be judged.

I'm not against personal insights (they are essential), I'm against personal insights
without a check.
 
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