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Arts and Culture

Troy Jollimore on Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Case for God’

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Posted on Dec 4, 2009
bookcover

By Troy Jollimore

“We are talking far too much about God these days,” writes Karen Armstrong, author of “The Battle for God,” “Visions of God,” “The Changing Face of God” and “A History of God,” at the outset of her new book, “The Case for God.” Funny, I was just thinking the same thing.

Still, I think I understand: If the rest of us are suffering from a touch of God Fatigue, surely Armstrong, whose readable, literate books on particular religions and religion in general have earned her a respectable reputation, might well be sick to death of the topic.

But there is no avoiding the topic of God: It’s all the rage these days. God is under attack, and God’s attackers under counterattack, everywhere you look. Anyway, Armstrong’s real complaint is not that we are talking too much about God, but that there is too much talk of the wrong sort. We have misunderstood the very concept of God, and as a result “what we say [about God] is often facile.” She isn’t referring only to the so-called new atheists here—well, primarily she is referring to the new atheists, because they are the ones that really get her goat, but she is careful to assure us that the central modern misunderstanding of religion, which is to see it primarily as a matter of belief, is one shared by most religious adherents, and isn’t just a creation of their critics.

The complaint that the new atheists (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc.) are theologically incompetent, and that a subtler appreciation for the finer points of theology would expose the shallowness of their attacks, is by now a common one. But few defenders of religion attempt actually to spell out the theological details; and the results of those attempts that have been made are, in my experience, deeply unsatisfying.

 

book cover

 

The Case for God

 

By Karen Armstrong

 

Knopf, 432 pages

 

Buy the book

Can Armstrong’s ambitious survey of the history of Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious thought do better? She is entirely correct that atheistic critiques aimed at naive strict literalist readings of holy texts can take us only so far. Mocking the angry, cruel, unjust deity of the Old Testament, or reminding literalists that the world is considerably more than 4,000 years old, has little force against the moderate, nonfundamentalist faithful. More powerful skeptical critiques, though, do not presuppose Scriptural literalism. They rely on the Darwinian view of how complex life evolved on this planet, or the existence of serious evil and injustice—things that are well-established and pretty much impossible reasonably to deny and, at the same time, extraordinarily difficult to reconcile with any view of God-as-designer/caretaker, or with any other traditional form of theistic belief.

Pointing out that sacred texts are not meant to be read literally, then, is not enough. Armstrong’s more radical strategy is to de-emphasize the role of belief in religious life altogether: Practice, she writes, is more important than belief, and we misunderstand references to “belief” in the Bible, the Quran and elsewhere if we interpret them in accordance with our modern understanding of belief. (The correct sense, she writes, has more to do with “ ‘trust,’ ‘loyalty,’ ‘engagement,’ and ‘commitment.’ ”) Critics who focus on the absurdity or implausibility of so many religious beliefs, then, or on the fact that religion encourages people to accept these beliefs uncritically and to hold them in the face of any countervailing evidence, are missing the point: It isn’t believing certain things but rather living a certain sort of life that makes a person religious.

To see long excerpts from “The Case for God,” click here.

One might well worry, though, that it is not as easy as Armstrong assumes to separate belief from action or practice. Indeed all intentional voluntary action presupposes some set of beliefs. Armstrong may perhaps make a plausible claim in asserting that faith, as understood by mainstream religious traditions before the advent of modernity, involved more than “mere” belief in the modern sense; but if the problem with religious life is that it encourages false, absurd, unjustified beliefs, showing that it does other things as well is not sufficient. What must be shown is that religion does not involve belief, and not merely that it involves other things in addition to belief. So long as religious worldviews differ in certain important ways from that held by the nonreligious, one can still complain that that worldview is poorly founded and, to a large degree, implausible. (Of course, it is open to the faithful to attempt to formulate a worldview that is both plausible and recognizably religious in a meaningful sense. Again, though, reassurances that such a picture can be articulated are far more often encountered than are actual and convincing attempts at doing so.)

Throughout the book Armstrong frequently indicates an attraction to apophaticism, which she sees as promising a response to this worry. Apophaticism, as she understands it, claims that God is ineffable and that talk about God literally has no content at all. Since God transcends all human attempts at understanding, humans cannot think or say anything meaningful about God:

The idea of God is merely a symbol of indescribable transcendence and has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries. The modern God—conceived as a powerful creator, first cause, supernatural personality realistically understood and rationally demonstrable—is a recent phenomenon. It was born in a more optimistic time than our own and reflects the firm expectation that scientific rationality could bring the apparently inexplicable aspects of life under the control of reason. […] We have seen too much evil in recent years to indulge in a facile theology that says—as some have tried to say—that God knows what he is doing, that he has a secret plan that we cannot fathom, or that suffering gives men and women the opportunity to practice heroic virtue. A modern theology must look unflinchingly into the heart of a great darkness and be prepared, perhaps, to enter the cloud of unknowing.

This rejection of the theistic God, and acknowledgment that the problem of evil cannot be swept away through theodicy, might sound like music to atheists’ ears. And what could any skeptic find objectionable about revelation once we accept Maximus’ view that “[p]aradoxical as it might sound, the purpose of revelation was to tell us that we knew nothing about God”? Surely if this view were widely accepted the most serious problems with religion would simply dissipate. Would people who admitted that they “knew nothing about” God’s will support laws to prevent “unholy” same-sex marriages? Would people who saw God as “that mystery, which defies description” be moved to reject Darwinian views of evolution, contra all the available evidence?


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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, December 11, 2009 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

Good morning elisalouisa,
If we are talking about molecules, I don’t see how they could be changed at
their basic level even if they have been through several combinations and
recombinations. 

While elementary particles can decay into other more primitive particles, i.e.,
bosons, muons, quarks, fermions, hadrons, etc. etc., the basic elements are not
changed in themselves.  Among the many laws of physics, the laws of
thermodynamics say energy in the universe is neither created nor destroyed.  It
simply moves from one form to another in what is known as phase transition.

While I am not a physicist I am familiar enough with atomic theory to
understand somewhat how the universe is constructed, physically that is.  It
would be rather interesting if the universe were affected by our existence and
our sentiments adjust the universe ever so much, considering its vastness. 
There would still be enmity since all human essences have a variety of views
from the most altruistic to the most self-serving.

Since mathematics is a domain that uses numerics as representations, numbers
are often used to mean various things, and a unity, as represented by the
number 1, could be divided into fractions and hence while still remaining a
unity at one level, are infinite at another.  Numbers are in a sense metaphors. 
So could 1 + 1 = 5?  It will depend on what kind of proof is wanted.  If it is a set
of logical steps acquired through methodical deduction, and not steps leaped
over, a long and arduous mathematics by the mathematician Charles Seife does
offer a solution where 1 + 1 can equal 5. 

All that notwithstanding, there is actually an English alternative rock band,
Radiohead who released a song “2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm)” that can be heard
at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lstDdzedgcE
Not my cup of tea, neither the type of music nor the video of which a lot of the
animation is on the psychosexual S&M violent side. Unfortunately that genre of
music is often that way.  I am not intending to offend any one.  I am merely
saying the notion of 2 + 2 = 5 fell into pop culture.  The youtube video should
be avoided by those who don’t want to be affronted.

Report this

By christian96, December 11, 2009 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

The author of an article I was reading last night
in bed made the comment, “Jesus Christ and God
pre-existed before eternity.”  I thought about that
statement.  How do you pre-exist before eternity?
Eternity meaning always was and always will be. How
do you pre-exist something that always was? Thinking
the author probably meant “pre-existed before the
universe” I started thinking about the universe.
It is commonly accepted among scientist that our
universe had a beginning and has an end.  Maybe
they are wrong.  Is it possible the universe always
was and always will be?  If so, that would create
a problem for the author of the book of Genesis
which begins with the phrase, “In the beginning….”

Report this

By elisalouisa, December 11, 2009 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous:
I so agree with your well written post of December 11 at 1:57 pm, as to your
beliefs, until the last part of the last paragraph. There we have a parting of the
ways however, that is fine for such beliefs are personal. I also accept my
temporary place in the universe and believe that my molecules will return to that
universe, as they should. However, I shall add that they will not return the same
for my temporary life has adjusted them somewhat, hopefully for the better. Now
how do I reconcile that with believing there is a higher source, energy, whatever
you wish to call it. I do not have all the answers and there is no conflict in those
beliefs, at least in my book. As Gurdjieff said, “Even God cannot make 2 + 2 = 5.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, December 11, 2009 at 6:57 am Link to this comment

I lived in the Bible Belt too long, Tom Edgars.  I felt suffocated. I didn’t have a
problem with the religious there, but their way of life and beliefs were stifling,
essentially antagonistic towards people of nonbelief.  Most friends are religious
as are most, but not all, of my relatives, a very big family indeed.  A mixture of
Catholic and Protestant.  All but one that I know of are not radically religious.  I
appreciate their calm religiosity as their heart is good and they have what
Heidegger called Sorge, Caring.  That is something I practice.  If I want social
interaction I call on my religious friends and or religious relatives, or my
atheist friends and relatives. It is out of love not any belief system.  Sympathy
and compassion for what exists is for me the height of humanity from the
depths of survival savagery.  It is not that savagery in itself is bad, as animals
have that gene to survive but nature caused humans coincidentally to develop a
caring brain that went beyond self-serving survival to a keener awareness of
their existence, developing further a reflective mind capable of extraordinary
thinking.  Some humans retain a vestige of that savagery. 

I don’t have a quarrel with anyone who chooses to believe in a higher being
who takes care of things.  Most taught this from infancy and come to depend
on what they consider to be a safety net.  Isn’t it because of a deep sense of
helplessness in the face of human mortality?

I have a fervent dispute with the militantly religious who want to make me live
their dogma.  I refused indoctrination of religious beliefs all my life.  As a child
I was taken to church and made to participate in something I was too immature
to understand.  Once reaching the edge of freedom’s age, teenage, I
consciously had the epiphany that I did not believe.  It was not out of anger, it
was a realization that responsibility for my life resides within myself.  I have
always conducted myself with moral behavior and expect that of others. 
Atheists I know are the same.  It is not a matter of faith.

I think the “militant” atheists have taken up a gauntlet to do battle with the
militant believers, fiercely feeling stigmatized as nonbelievers.  There is little
negotiation between the polarized sides. 

I find human existence ultimately absurd such as did Samuel Beckett and
others, Camus, Kafka, Sartre, Vonnegut, Bertrand Russell…and illusory as do
Buddhists. Unlike Sartre who came to fear the way it is, I see myself as a speck
of dust in the universe, a conglomeration of subatomic particles that is here
temporarily.  Whatever “good” life my lifeform has it is because I will it to have
and made it to be.  There are all kinds of eloquent arguments for and against
the existence of god, how the universe came to be.  I believe all existence is
ultimately meaningless rendered such by the fact of our temporality.  It does
not distress me because I accept my temporary place in the universe,  My
molecules will return to that universe, as they should.

What is misery is when humans do not give, as Night-Gaunt put it a little
differently but meaning the same, the regard they have for themselves to all
others. 

By my own will, life is to be enjoyed, to be among others, to enjoy the world’s
beauty, to defy ugliness, to enjoy the magic of unique human consciousness,
its critical and creative mind and all the evidence that mind has given
humanity, to accept the world is naturally a hostile environment and to survive
in spite of it.  I refuse to grant all of that to a supernatural being who at one
time is said to be completely unknowable yet at another time jealously
commands humans to bow, to be subjected to the most humiliating
relationship to barter for some invented life-after-death, to be in some eternal
peace.  I cannot think of anything more boring.  It all defies my logic and I am
not convinced I must believe.

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By DaveZx3, December 11, 2009 at 5:50 am Link to this comment

Tom,

Yes, I posted Pro 7 15 in response to your assertion that the religious are obsessed with sex.  But these people with the obsession are the false-church, because Pro 7 15 is a parable having nothing at all to do with sex.

Now read Mat 13.  After reading that you will be spitting nails, I suppose.

It is the paradox of the atheist that they must have faith before they can have knowledge, and as you say this is the antithesis of the mind of the atheist.  I did refer to Hbr 11 earlier to underscore this paradox. 

As you stated in your post:

“I like the opening verse. “Now faith is what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see.”

While you do not like this verse, Tom, I can state the fact that from hope comes faith and from faith comes the knowledge that you seek.  There is no shortcut.

In my life, there was a point where I was without any hope, and ready to end it.  My despair caused me to call out to the God who I did not think existed.  But at that point I hoped that he existed, because I saw no other way to keep going.  That hope became faith instaneously when it was rewarded by a very warm feeling of love and calmness.  The faith turned into knowledge and over the past 24 years it has grown to an enormous level. 

So, as corny as all this sounds, in my life it has become a fact.  And I understand why it has not become a fact in the lives of others.  I can perfectly understand the mind of the atheist who wants knowledge before belief.  But it ain’t gonna happen, at least for now.

All will get the opportunity to call on the god of their choice.  There is no pecking order.  God is a pro-choice God, it is not his will that any be lost, so everyone will get the opportunity to see what the clear choices are at some point, even if they must first be resurrected. 

There is no justice to be found in hiding the truth and asking people to make a choice while in a state of delusion.  All will become clear, and very few will be lost.  Though my religious friends might not agree with that, it is a point that I have asked about diligently, and am sure I have the truth on it.  But I do also realize that there is some behavior which is not forgivable.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, December 10, 2009 at 11:08 pm Link to this comment

Emmanuel Swedenborg thought that Atheists had a veil ever their eyes and that they were “serpents of earthly knowledge” and not doves of spiritual knowledge. Unfortunately he also considered them like Machiavelli to be crafty as serpents and think it a virtue and to use people and to lie to them etc. to take earthly power. [Swedenborg wrote a book on angels when during that time of research he reported being “besieged by dark presences”.

Anyway for me as an Atheist I see that one must be a humanist as well as should all people. Without it you can become or are a psychopath in that you will have not affinity or love or empathy with others and therefor killing one or a million are just statistics—fleshy cyphers of no consequence. So in my way of seeing it isn’t the philosophy or religion you live by but if you see others as you see yourself. Most people have this innately. A few are born without that capacity (4-6%) and still more can be swayed to be like them (12%) so we are at the mercy of so few. It needs to stop, the wars need to stop, the killing has to end. Wars kill not heal. Religion will not save us only people can do that. The ethos of profit over life only produces more disaster and death that feeds the disaster capitalism we have been experiencing since the late 1970’s.

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By Tom Edgar, December 10, 2009 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment

Dave

Oh! great. Especially coming after my submission regarding sexual obsession in religion.

Proverbs 7 15.  “So I have came out to meet you and have found you”.

Did you just use this one little item to suit your convenience?  Starting from verse 10 to 23 It is all about sexual seduction and marital infidelity. Prior to that and thereafter it is about apportioning all of the blame to the female whilst ignoring the eager participation of the male.

You, either unwittingly, or deliberately, twisted my meaning.  Maybe I should have written “YOU should investigate.” Eschewing belief before establishing the facts.  Atheists usually do investigate.

To then quote a verse from Hebrews that very definitely is one that atheists find so ridiculous is to my mind denigratory, and I would add, to my mind is arrogant.  We must BELIEVE (Faith) before we can KNOW. (God.)? The very antithesis of the atheist’s mind. We must know BEFORE we’ll believe.

I like the opening verse. “Now faith is what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see.” (my emphasis).

This is so childishly presented it would certainly appeal to the uneducated goatherd. But I fail to see how either of the quotations would appeal to even a moderately educated person such as myself.  I think my native intelligence deserves better. Joshua I thinking was really joshing.

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By elisalouisa, December 10, 2009 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

DaveZx3:
But I have seen the fear in her eyes, and they are not the eyes of someone
fabricating a story consciously.  At this point, the parents let her come into their
bed whenever she wants for lack of any other solution.  And who knows the
source of that activity?
*************************
As long as there is real fear then the parents should be there. A better solution
would be to have a bed in the children’s room that a parent could lay on when they are fearful. When my grandchildren are over I always am with them until they fall asleep.

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By DaveZx3, December 10, 2009 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

By Shenonymous, December 10 at 5:31 pm #

“It would be very interesting to learn what you think our glaring difference is?”

The glaring difference was summed up

By Tom Edgar, December 10 at 6:37 pm #

“Before we claim that things we do not understand or know, are in the realms of a being who is unknowable, I suggest we investigate and try to find out”

Totally untenable and arrogant statement.  Just because you don’t know does not mean that there are not some who do.  There is a prescribed way to know God that works every time.  Try Pro 7:15 or Hbr 11:6 for starters.  If this stuff wasn’t true, I would have given it up a long, long time ago.

The paradox of the atheist is that he won’t be able to get proof of God until he gets enough faith in God to ask for it.

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By christian96, December 10, 2009 at 5:20 pm Link to this comment

Having studied and taught Child Development I am
familiar with the idea that most adults cannot
recall what happened to them before the ages of 4 or
5.  There are people who appear to be able to recall
events before those ages but the events were of a
tragic nature.  I am not familiar with research
conducted on children between the ages of 7 to 10
about what they could recall before the ages of
4 and 5.  Perhaps it has been done and I am not
familiar with it.  It would be an intersting research
study. I recall my mother telling me that my 3 or 4
year old niece kept talking over and over about a
brother named Seth who died in a California earthquake.  My niece is now 40 and can’t recall
anything about a brother named Seth.

Shenonymous—-I don’t believe the verses by Paul
which appear to be sexist are completely understood
because they are inconsistent with other verses
related to women.  God reports that in the last
day he will pour out his spirit on sons and
DAUGHTERS and they will preach, teach, and
prophesy.  Doesn’t sound sexist to me.

Report this

By Tom Edgar, December 10, 2009 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

Ah@! I think it was more in the realm of a Noble speech.
Some Politicians are adept at it whilst making sure they never live up to the noble aspirations.

I did e mail him to say he should send back his Nobel Peace award to avoid being a hypocrite.

Overpopulation? We have here idiotic leaders who talk of going from our 30 to 40 million, motivated by the dollars, that must grow by expanding the market with population growth.  This very day towns in Queensland are trucking in water to keep the towns alive.  In other parts there are varying levels of water restrictions,  we are still hell bent on producing more consumers in a country that can never guarantee a water supply.  Long past time when two children should be a family maximum. Yes I did have three until last month when my eldest succumbed to cancer.  So now with only my maximum, & only one grandchild maybe I can afford to be self righteous and smug.  At least they are all, including nineteen year old grand daughter, atheists.
No I didn’t make them that way.  My wife was a Quaker
who even attended a Baptist Church at one stage.
My fondest memory is of my younger son with the Baptist Sunday School Head’s son marching down the aisle with an extra large Church banner, during the period of the Vietnam War, chanting loudly in unison. “Ho Ho Ho Chi Min” Poor mother metaphorically digging a hole in which to hide. Whilst the other parents were near explosion point. Ah! Happy day.

When I listen to the climate change deniers I remind them that the humans have ADDED to the natural variations. Only five hundred years ago the U.K.
U S A, Europe and most of the world were covered in forests. two thousand years ago the world’s population could be contained in a city smaller than London or New York. No, humans do not cause the climate change, but they sure as hell don’t help, especially when they use their sex centered religion as an excuse to proliferate their particular group.

Sorry it is another obsession I have.  No not me and sex.  Religion and sex. Why is it that, virtually without variance, the major sects are all obsessed with sexual behaviour, satisfaction, procreation and keeping women subservient.  I ask. “Has there ever been a major religion started and controlled by women?”  I wonder what the sexual orientation would be in a female led religion. Would the God be a Goddess? More likely a Eunuch.

She.  I imagine that as an educator you must be a long way from the Bible Belt.  My late wife had a pen friend in Georgia. We continued corresponding after Eileen died until I found my letters weren’t being given to her after she married a “Fundie” Minister.  Australian stamps. Then she never saw the letter. I can be devious. I sent one, with pertinent remarks, mailing it through my niece in California with a U S mail stamp. She received it.  So much for Christian forbearance.

History?  All history is a particular writers perception.
I recall reading that the French do not understand why the British have a railroad station named after Waterloo.  Their idea of the battle seems to be at variance with the British version.  Churchill’s recollection of his many failures differs from those who participated in his debacles, both in war and peace. Many of the meetings between Eisenhower and Churchill were acrimonious, fortunately Eisenhower’s decisions prevailed, but Churchill’s version differs.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, December 10, 2009 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

If wise men like you Tom Edgar didn’t philosophize we would all be in a pickle
since the youth and nearly all the middleagers just don’t get it, nor the
question either.  I for one appreciate the wisdom that comes with age and
experience.  Our elders and I’m getting close to being in that group, take their
time and reflect on their past life and what the world has produced during that
time.  We don’t really know the past, and contrary to popular belief, history is
not consulted for any present learning.  And we just as hell don’t know the
future, and again history doesn’t teach us anything because we are of the
arrogance you speak of.  We just guess our heads off.  And yes, we are wrong a
lot.  Ah, humans, that is what we are.  The naked ape with a contemplating
brain.  It is a pity that most don’t know what the question is.  We are maybe too
many. But then to say something like that, we get accused of population control
and all hell breaks loose from one faction and yet the planet can only sustain
so many beings, human and otherwise.  Non-human animals have their own
forms of control, humans are too arrogant and some tribes think they ought to
have babies up the yingyang.  Well, water seeks its own level and that is a
physical fact and it is a metaphor.  And knowing the present is a laugh riot. 
That is the paradox of knowledge.  The Delphic Oracle had the idea that one
should know oneself before trying to know anything else.  Seems like a good
idea, don’t you think?

Hey, I liked Obama’s Nobel Prize speech.  He and we hope he lives up to it.

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By elisalouisa, December 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment

DaveZx3
I only took your post as an honest recounting of an experience in your life, no
more, no less, reading nothing into it, other than I did say it was, in my opinion,
of spiritual significance.  If that offended you, I apologize.
***********************
Dave I should have clarified myself more. I did not intend that comment for you as to ridicule. It was for the casual reader who just might accidently come upon my post. I certainly respect you and also Shenonymous who is very knowledgeable.
Thank you for your response.

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By Tom Edgar, December 10, 2009 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment

To Shenonymous, Garth others.

Garth. It isn’t necessary to have a higher education to be successful.  I, and others, have found it much better to marry a far more intelligent woman.

She, anything but a mouse.  I may have misinterpreted your leanings,mea culpa.  Yes you were right interpreting me.  To extend “There is always an explanation for all things, sometimes we don’t know the answer YET.” After all,what did we know before Newton, Gallileo, Pythagoras, and so many others? Did we understand hygiene before Lister?
Was the emancipation of the Black man in America initiated by Sam Clemens when writing his southern based books? Before we claim that things we do not understand or know, are in the realms of a being who is unknowable, I suggest we investigate and try to find out.

Shouldn’t be trying to philosophise to those of superior educational standards. Guess it is the ignorance that comes with advanced years, hate to think it was arrogance. Maybe that is what it is.  We are all arrogant in thinking we have the answer
and you lot are wrong. Pity that so many don’t know what the damned question is.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, December 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment

Being part Greek, garth, part of the Greeks!  What is left over the eye talians. 

Gotta go see ya later, ....

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By garth, December 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

My wife graduated summa cum laude also, and we have a a lot in common, not the least of which is she’s smart and I’ not.

“There is no anguish here, garth, just a happy atheist. “

As and Greek character used to say , “Who luvs ya, baby?”

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, December 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment

There is no anguish here, garth, just a happy atheist.  It is not important that you
or anyone else gains anything from my comments as I usually write to clarify
ideas for myself.  Criticisms and others’ not so critical comments help me to do
that.  I was summa cum laude in my post graduate degree.  Perhaps you don’t
know what that means?  Besides what it literally means, it means I take learning
seriously.  I am a long time educator of various and several subjects which is why
most of my posts might be found to be ejumakashunal.  A mini-education from
Truthdig won’t hurt anybody.  There are many on this website who are quite
educated and give much to learn and think about.  Others offer much in the way
common sense that I have found rounds out human perspectives.  One or two
have the greatest of humor besides.  I often find even those who don’t like me
much and call me names provide interesting things to think about.  Even you
have.

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By garth, December 10, 2009 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

I detect a certain disjointedness in your writing, a type of anguish.  Is it that important to be the smartest, the most well-read, the one who stands out in the class?
When you do all your writing to research a subject or write on-the-fly about abstaract subjects that I’d never heard of let alone thought of, it is both edudcational and eminently readable.

I thank God for people like you.
How’s that grab ya?

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, December 10, 2009 at 11:56 am Link to this comment

Trying to give each their personal regard before non-electronic life calls:

Yes, of course, garth, if atheism is not “the” argument, although it has been
peripherally for some which maybe you wish to ignore, but that would be all
right since it doesn’t have to be.  The main topic of a God as understood by
western minds, is the apparent argument and which includes particularly the
Abrahamic religions beliefs about such an entity.  If one believes in a “higher
power,” of course it is irrelevant whether there “is” one or not.  The special
knowledge you speak of, gnosticism, is also subject to suspicion just as all
knowledge is and while something might be knowledge for you, it might not be
knowledge for others.  The argument then is whether it is “true” knowledge and
that has nothing to do with faith or whether anyone has a special talent to
extract such truth.  Simon Magus is an interesting character also called Simon
the Sorcerer, and was a Samaritan pre-gnostic also considered a heretic to
Christians. 

What exactly is the truth of Simon?  Much is portrayal, and the only sources are
from Christian literature.  What is a magician?  Someone who can distort reality. 
An illusionist.  Humans have such creative minds.  Anyone looking for the
esoteric would certainly find it in this legendary character, but whatever is the
truth, is not revealed, only supposed.  Some that is written in the Christian
writings has to do with the animosity between SImon and Christ’s apostle Peter. 
One magician against another!  Ha!  Deepity are statements that seems to have
content but in actuality say very little or nothing at all!  One that always sticks
in my mind, as hilarious, is “The ground beneath the ground of being sounds
forth in silence.”  I always found much of Martin Heidegger a bit obscurely
deepitous. 

________________
I would hope, DaveZx3, since we have now established what I would consider a
respectful and possible amicable way of addressing each other, sometimes I
find that as hard won, but not really with you as we worked our way through
the tough spots fairly civilly, but it seems we might be able to work further.  I
appreciate it very much that you have opted to accept the honor of my word.  It
would be very interesting to learn what you think our glaring difference is? 
Would it be something we could both think about and discuss?  As I said, I am
open to any justifiable thesis.

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By Shenonymous, December 10, 2009 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

In my lengthy and academic life, I have found that humans have the unique
ability to construct explanations even when, in reality, these are irrational. 
Saying that is not intended to ridicule anyone, and if that is how it is taken,
that is a function of the person’s own subjective feelings who is taking it that
way.  From what I have learned in my studies, primitive societies resorted to
three categories of explanation of apparently unexplained perceived
phenomena, real or imagined:  there are real objects responsible for injuries,
i.e, falling boulders, or an enemy’s spear; the punishment of a god; spirits or
witchcraft, or fate or the fault of other superhumans.  These are levels of
causality, meaning the basis for belief.  They are combined to create a system,
even at a very young age because children in their limited experience of the
world, often create imaginary realities.  They can make elaborate descriptions
of these realities, can even create an explanation that satisfies their own
intellect.  Such explanations are coherent to be sure, meaning all the parts
seem to make sense.  It describes the phenomena and considers why it visited
at that precise moment of life.  Professional explanation of such experiences
include logical schemes: functional alteration, organic deterioration (I didn’t see
any of that in this forum’s comments), invasive (extraterrestrial abduction), or
disequilibrium (a disruption of harmony between the youngster, or adult, and
his/her surroundings).  Mystic entities are often believed to be the source.

These experiences are not the result of a life of equilibrium, and some
insecurity is involved from some experiential cause, the range of which is
infinite.  From the moment such a experience happens and a belief of what it is
that is established, the belief maintains itself by selective attention to the
environment, psychologic awareness of feelings and other possible psychic
variables.  Whatever is the experience, the belief contradicts the critical sense
and what would be considered normal awakened state of awareness.

It would be nearly impossible, if not completely impossible to make a
systematic study of any such experiences.  The attachment to beliefs about
them actually prevents it.  Some making sense of it could be made but it would
have to be made with an incredibly open and unbiased mind about the verity of
the experiences.

How one integrates the experiences in later life from that point on, is the
degree of health that is enjoyed.  I would suppose that such experiences could
be memories regardless of how frightening or not they were, that could launch
very creative activities such as writing stories, plays, making visual art, music,
even a more physical art such as dance, whatever could be considered as
healthy outlets to express the feelings felt at the time.  There is no conjecture
here that the events did not happen.

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By DaveZx3, December 10, 2009 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous,  You articulate your viewpoints well.  I actually disagree with little of what you say, except for the one glaring difference.  But I have always held that an atheist is closer to my position than the “ungodly godly”, that devious bunch which profess faith for the rewards they perceive in it.  So keep plugging on, as will I, and I will retract the name calling thing without reading all your posts.  It is easier to accept the honor of your word.

elisalouisa, I would never ridicule someone who relates an honest experience.  I find a lot of “truth” by discussing with others the honest experiences which they would rather not discuss.  It has always seemed so much more real and compelling.
I only took your post as an honest recounting of an experience in your life, no more, no less, reading nothing into it, other than I did say it was, in my opinion, of spiritual significance.  If that offended you, I apologize.

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By garth, December 10, 2009 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

Atheism is really not the argument.  If you believe in a higher power, one that is at least higher than yourself, is of no significance to the fact that there might or might not be a Supreme Being,

What is essential, however, and to the the root of most the misunderstanding is the belief of Gnostacism; that is, it takes a special knowledge to understand the Spititual workings of the Universe and that only a few have this gift, rt right, or whatever. 
Look up Simon Magus to see how the thoughts of thinkers in the past with an agenda have stayed around for far too long.

His claims leave open the criticism of ‘Deepity’ thoughts.

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By elisalouisa, December 10, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

DaveZx3 Depends on the age of the child. After the age of 6 I would be
extremely skeptical.  I had no outside influences. I spoke mostly Italian and the
religious icons were Mary and Jesus. Angels have gained popularity in recent
years as they are extremely commercial, when I was a small child the status of
Angels was negligible.
Is there an explanation? Yes.  Can it be know it at this level? I doubt it. Also I ask
that my experience not lend validity to other experiences. For I am certain many
facts are not similar. I just wrote about it because this was a good place to share. I have been careful about such things for people can be cruel. If you ridicule what i have written it really does not matter.

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By Shenonymous, December 10, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

The limitation atheists have is not believing ideas that have no justification. To
attribute anything else DaveZx3, is your own addition.  It was Tom Edgar who
said “There is nothing that doesn’t have an explanation,” if you had been
reading this forum.  There is much on the topic of atheism that is
misunderstood and mis-said.  My manifesto of atheism is as follows:

A dogmatic criticism by some is that atheism is an incomplete world view.  As
an atheist I agree.  Atheists do not claim to have it all figured out.  Atheists say
there is nothing compelling enough that a belief in a deity is justified. 

It is baiting to ask for a “complete” list of all the possible explanations for
various phenomena, real, or imagined.  If you wish to not get caught thinking
outside some imagined box, it is not one I manufactured for you, but you did
yourself.  We ultimately are responsible for our own beliefs and actions.

I think you are wise not to be limited in accepting what is the truth of reality
(God, life, the universe, existence…).  I’ve always said I am open to any new,
but justified and reliable information.  Surely you would not embellish what I
said, would you?  I admire anyone who questions all things.  Remember you
said that. 

Just to set the record straight, and you don’t have to believe me but may check
every post I’ve ever made on Truthdig, which are in the thousands, I have never
initiated calling anyone a name, but have only counter-called.  It has been my
prime complaint of Truthdiggers that they damage their intelligence by
engaging in such behavior.  Please check that out!  Without a doubt I am a
strong and mighty defender of my own integrity!  I have come to appreciate
what your mind posts these days on the forums as well.  You also have
improved in my estimation.  Nevertheless, I do believe my form of atheism is
not limited except for what I have already stated.

Does being an atheist make anyone a better human being?  No, nor does it
make anyone worse.  Being an atheist does not hinder investigating the world
as a coherent reality, not as it is imagined even if that imagined explanation
seems coherent.  One kind of explanation is more verifiable than the other. 
Religions, all religions, for the atheist, are human invented systems.

It is claimed that no atheist have contributed to the betterment of humans. 
This is patently false.  Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi to name two famous
20th century atheists who have brought peace to this world, and because of
them it is a better place.  Even Warren Buffett, the very wealthy American
philanthropist uses his money for humanitarian purposes.  Then of course,
there were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, not to
forget Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Thomas Paine, Samuel Clemens (Mark
Twain), Benjamin Franklin, and a whole host of others.

There is no argument that atheist tyrants have been murderous anti-humanists
assuming a persona that injured both humans and non-humans.  Theists, have
also committed such crimes against humanity.  A list of both beneficent and
criminal atheists see wikipedia, the most thorough site I’ve found at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_atheists

Atheism encompasses many beliefs, is not an indoctrinating belief system as is
religion.  It is not “about” anything except being open to justified belief either
discovered on one’s own or from some other reliable source.  A reliable source
is one that can be verified.  Atheism is nontheism. 

Most atheists think integrity is the main principle for living.  Integrity is moral
soundness.  Treating all life forms with respect simply for living, but not if they
commit acts harmful to other humans and animals.  Atheists believe humans
have certain rights they are born with:  The right to a healthy sustaining life. 
The right to be in a world and use it for sustenance but not to abuse that
world.

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By DaveZx3, December 10, 2009 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, December 10 at 11:15 am #

“It is fantastic that someone can spend a fair number of words saying “there is
nothing that doesn’t have an explanation,” with which I completely agree with,
and what do some others do but focus only on a description of the fairy-faith
ordeals of a child to validate their own personal unfounded or unexplainable
experiences”

Please forward asap a complete list of all the possible explanations for various phenomenon so I never again get caught thinking outside of the box that you have apparently manufactured for me.

Somebody (can’t remember who it was) once said, “there is nothing that doesn’t have an explanation”, and I find that to be true. 

But I refuse to be limited in my discovery of what the explanations may be, either by someone of religion or someone of anti-religion, by someone of God or someone of anti-God, which are all just different ignorant postulations of the idea that everything is already determined.

It is ironic that men would declare themselves wise when they do not even know the source of the forces which hold the very atoms in their bodies together. 

I choose not to limit my thinking or my experiences to what others think or write in their little books, but to question all things. 

But I am a fan of the new and improved Shenonymous, less irate, less name-calling, but still grounded in the absolute limitations of atheism.

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By Shenonymous, December 10, 2009 at 7:15 am Link to this comment

It is fantastic that someone can spend a fair number of words saying “there is
nothing that doesn’t have an explanation,” with which I completely agree with,
and what do some others do but focus only on a description of the fairy-faith
ordeals of a child to validate their own personal unfounded or unexplainable
experiences. 

Description is not explanation, in spite of the persuasive powers of speech.  To
describe an experience does not explain it.  If one believes they have had an
experience of the unusual or unreal, and describes it, that description does not
give any insight into the source or reason for the experience.  Attributing it to
the influence of supernatural sources is one way to experience it. But that is
not the only explanation.  Equally believable, there can be natural explanations
and I think that is what Tom Edgar is expressing.  Simply said, what one wants
to believe too often goes into how an explanation develops.  Perhaps I did not
understand Mr. Edgar rightly, he will say so if I don’t.

The author and semiotician (a theorist who is concerned with the function of
symbols constructed in language, either natural or artificial), Umberto Eco, in
his novel, Foucault’s Pendulum, makes the statement that, “There are four
basic types: the cretin, the imbecile, the stupid, and the mad.  Normality is a
balanced mixture of all four.”  It seems to me that the focus ought not to be on
the four aberrant mental states nor the state of normalcy, but on that key
word, “balance.” I believe that is the healthy state.  What is reasonable ought to
be the question.  What is the most reasonable of the possible explanations
ought to be the next big question.

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By DaveZx3, December 10, 2009 at 5:14 am Link to this comment

elisalouisa, December 10 at 6:19 am #

A very intriguing account re: the vision of the angel and the dragon.  You say it was not a dream, but you were fully awake?  I do not doubt your story for a moment, as I have heard similar types of stories on many occasions. 

One of my grandaughters at this very time is having images/visions of some sort of an evil “thing” which she refuses to elaborate on.  Her mother just thinks she is trying to talk her way into the parent’s bed.
But I have seen the fear in her eyes, and they are not the eyes of someone fabricating a story consciously.  At this point, the parents let her come into their bed whenever she wants for lack of any other solution.  And who knows the source of that activity?

I personally am intrigued by the idea that the brain exhibits power and capacity far beyond what one could expect to be present based upon an evolutionary process keeping up with our need to think and innovate.  If evolution exhibited an intelligent capacity to plan for the future, then we cannot really attribute it to the randomness of nature, can we? 

Also, I am intrigued by the need for sleep, and the dreaming that often accompanies it.  Science cannot account for any of this, the last time I looked.  When you observe the rapid eye movement and body twitching of someone in dreamland, it is obvious that they are actually living an experience, if only in their mind.

It reminds me of a scripture,

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams”

The brain, and its spiritual brother, the mind, have a capacity which is virtually unlimited.  I believe we all have a large capacity for spiritual discernment, but do not exercise it, preferring to limit ourselves to what we can observe by the material senses. 

But like the blind man who develops super sensitive hearing, some, by focusing on the spiritual have developed a capacity for significant discernment of this side of our existence.  Children may sometimes have to learn to suppress spiritual discernment, and until they do, they often “see” that which is not visible.

As an old man, I can testify for having very, very vivid dreams, the source of I have to attribute to the spiritual.

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By elisalouisa, December 10, 2009 at 2:19 am Link to this comment

Thanks for your response Tom.

No, I was not exposed to St. George and the Dragon until my school years.
I knew of angels with very visible wings. Carl Jung believed that such visions were real and I tend to agree with him.

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By Tom Edgar, December 10, 2009 at 1:56 am Link to this comment

Elisalouisa.  As I don’t know your domicile I can’t be more specific.  But in most Anglo Celtic communities the very young, even if not remembering, are exposed to the “Dragons” etc., in fairy stories or Hans Christian Andersen fables. Even the very prominent depiction of St George and the Dragon, from even recent perusal of old books featured prominently in Boys and Girls story books.  It doesn’t take much to impress a receptive mind, even subliminally.

Don’t take them to actual things, they are but dreams.
Even now, well into my eighties, I have dreams that are, often or not, carried on into the period of awakening.  The dreaming can be just as clear, or even more so, in that twilight period.  It still isn’t factual. Ye Gods if it was, my late wife would have had grounds for a divorce that I had never given her in real life. Yeah well even that kind have disappeared now. Now I dream about dreaming about them.

Leave’em smiling

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By elisalouisa, December 10, 2009 at 12:58 am Link to this comment

Elisa.  When you saw those angels did you, later in life, stop to think, they looked
like the popular paintings and statues around? 
***************
I have thought about that Tom but that is just not true. I didn’t even know what a
dragon was and did not find out until much later that in the Chinese culture there
are dragons without legs or feet. As to the angel, for want of a better word that is
what I have called the creature. She(he) had no clothing yet did not look
undressed. I felt no fear toward the angel only toward the dragon. At times, in my
bed, I would see bright specks above me that seemed to move. Until now, I have
never revealed my visions because I knew no one would believe me and after all,
what did it matter.

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By Tom Edgar, December 9, 2009 at 11:50 pm Link to this comment

I’m more than a little annoyed. With rather a lengthy reply finished, one of Night Gaunt’s gremlins gobbled it.

Shenonymous.  My remark was more of a qualification for the latter part, but I do feel you have some feeling for “Spirituality”, that I do not.

Elisalouisa/Gaunt.

Yes the little bit about the “Bottom of the bed” visions was of no consequence, mightn’t have been when I was four but after five years of age, with the aid of an irreligious father. countering a mother who was the most superstitious and vision bound person I have ever known.  I Grew Up.

My mother’s obsession led her, late in life to “Spiritualism” and, we think, to her untimely death. A continual sleep walker. Forever having dreams of her own mother and her father killed in WW1 she toppled down steep stairs whilst calling “Mother.”
I told her long before that if she came to haunt me, after she’d gone, I’d start believing. Guess it is a long way to a mountain top “Bush” retreat in the Antipodes from S E London.  Probably got lost.

Yes the human brain is a wonderful organ and we know so little about it.  It is no reason to make assumptions about it when we don’t KNOW the answer.
This is the same with religion, especially ion the past, in enlightened societies we have left behind the disposition to attribute to a God what we don’t understand.  To do so only leaves us at a standstill
without the will to investigate and evaluate other reasons.

Imaginary beings, hallucinations, visions.  In the past many of these can be attributed to Alcohol, Narcotics, Mass hysteria, etc.,  The last one to whom you should ask the question is the person who is suffering from Bi Polar, Schizophrenia, etc.,  They KNOW their companions and happenings are real.

Elisa.  When you saw those angels did you, later in life, stop to think, they looked like the popular paintings and statues around?  Then to go further, the dreams and hallucinations of a Muslim, Hindu,or Jewish child sees the images of their culture. Not because the images themselves are relevant but are just reflections of their particular indoctrination, from the cradle.

Heck I know I was more lucid first time around.
Down Under we are frying. I live 3,000 feet up, in the coldest area in Queensland. Three days in a row and we have been on the old 100 scale. Yep, when young I have experienced much hotter but this is ridiculous and to hear some people saying “It ain’t happening.” Well I’ve done my time in hell up the Persian Gulf, or do they call it the Iranian gulf now? So the afterburner has no problems for me.

I’ll come back when I begin to think more clearly.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 9, 2009 at 9:40 pm Link to this comment

Tom Edgar:
“Used to see fairies and my Guardian Angel when I was little.”

So I was right on that. I however had no such sightings, curiously some “psychics” say they were that way but they cultivated such abilities. Or would that be an added component in your eyes and brain? But then if you don’t use it you lose it. The human brain is a fantastic organ severely under used but also have other abilities that could do us harm. Like imagination and hallucination. Even so that doesn’t mean that was what was happening. But since we don’t yet have anything else that could explain it that is how it will be interpreted right or wrong. [I know Sagan said for extraordinary claims one must have extraordinary proof.]

What

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By firefly, December 9, 2009 at 7:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

‘God’ is just another word for conscience.

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By Shenonymous, December 9, 2009 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

Well I don’t know what is going on because as I return to this forum my first
post now looks fine and I had reposted because at about 3:30 pm today it was
crazy formatted.  Oh well.  The other weird thing that is happening on Truthdig
is the time noted when individual posts are made.  Like I posted at 3:30 today,
yet it shows as three hours later at 6:34pm.  What gives?  Does anybody else
get that problem?  Thanx, This is really a webmaster thing. But I’d like to know
if anyone else is experiencing these oddities.  Or maybe it is just a poltergeist?

At any rate, I said in my last post, “I have read them, including the 13 letters
that were not included in the Scripture. 
In all the hullaballoo of the
formatting on Truthdig and the weird paragraph structure, I was amused to see
I had made a big typo.  Please change that to read “were included.”  Fingers
were moving to fast. 

But in some versions Hebrews are included, some not.  There is dispute over
whether or not Paul wrote Titus or if Titus, Paul’s companion did.  Titus is
where some crucial writing about women occurs.  So many people had their
hands in collecting the writings that eventually found their way into the bible
and those that did not.  So much so that the truth is difficult if not impossible
at times to discover.  Nevertheless, the books are said to be Paul’s and he gets
the credit for the attitude towards women. 

It might be Paul meant just as you say, christian96, when you say he was
“making reference to women in church who were talking and interrupting
services when he made the comment?“women should be silent in church.” 
Seems that it must have happened more than once for him to commit the
reprimand in writing instead of just talking to them privately which would have
been the less sexist thing to do.  Probably the women who might have been
the ones to commit the infraction didn’t even read .  Oh well.  Paul is a
controversial figure and debate about him goes on today between religious
philosophers and theologians.  Reading his life story I can’t say I have much
admiration for him anyway.  But I would not have voted to have him executed! 

Tom Edgar, yes I know Hawton was not a professional philosopher, if
professional could even be said of philosophers.  Perhaps I should say not
lettered instead.  And his work, his understanding of philosophy is right to the
level of mind most of the general public could access.  I look forward to my
“find” of his book.  I consider it a rare find, so thank you.  It is not taken
properly when people on Truthdig compliment others, guess it depends on
how it is done or exactly what is said, but I did want to say I have appreciated
your comments as one who is thoughtful and calmly works your way through
well-stated ideas.  I am curious what it is we don’t agree with, or rather what it
is you do not agree with what I’ve said because oddly enough I have agreed
with everything you have said.

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By elisalouisa, December 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

Tom Edgar:
Used to see fairies and my Guardian Angel when I was little.

Ah Tom Edger, you slipped this comment in as if it was of no consequence. I
also saw things as a child, about 4 or 5 years of age. At the right side of the
foot of my bed at night would be a green dragon encased in a see through
rectangle container about 6 feet high and 12 inches square. At the time, not
knowing about dragons I thought it was a snake. On the left side was a being
resembling an angel except that the wings were much smaller than the wings
you see on statues of angels. I would call out to my mother that there was a
snake by my bed. She would send my father and of course reality would return. 
Finally this vision left me. It was years later when reading Carl Jung that I found
out that such visions do come to children who are not yet biased against such
things. As time went on I wondered why the dragon was on my right side and
the angel to the left. In time I solved this riddle. They were facing me and in
this context the angel was on the right.

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By Tom Edgar, December 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous.

I bought a Thinkers Handbook 2nd hand a few years ago when my original failed to return from a loan.  That copy had been with me from the early forties.
Loaned it to a Nazarene Minister,  My very dear friend.

Remember Hawton was NOT an academic nor was he a degreed Philosopher although respected as a Philosophical thinker in the field. For all that,or maybe because of that, I found him eminently readable if rather centered on anti Catholicism but then he WAS a Limey.  He survived with, distinction,  WW2 as an R.A.F pilot, the experience only fortifying his atheism. When one considers most of his writings were in the early 20th century one can only say his bravery wasn’t confined to WW2.

Mightn’t agree with what you say, but do love the way you say it.

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By Shenonymous, December 9, 2009 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment

How funny. Only quotes.  How, doublestandards/glasshouses, do
you select the quotes?  Is there some method to your madness? 
Shenonymous says, “Atheists don’t pray… unless they are forced
to take out the trash, then they pray the trashman has not picked
up yet because it will be around for another week attracting flies.”

I purchased the Hawton book you recommended, The Thinker’s
Handbook, Tom Edgar, probably the last copy to be found
anywhere in the world! and will read it for ‘pleasure.”  Also,
Hector Hawton’s Philosophy for Pleasure another book he
wrote, while delightful and unpretentious, is probably not a
book for the serious philosophy scholar, but it probably might
do for busy ‘new’ thinkers to find out quickly what it’s all about,
Alfie. 

Seems like Carl Sagan said it all in his Baloney Detection Kit
that can be found in a number of places on the internet, but
the one I found most readable, text unchanged, is
http://www.kent-hovind.com/baloney.htm

In his book, The Demon-Haunted World…, Sagan, a
preeminent scientist of the 20th century, gave a great deal
of serious thought to psuedoscientific experiences,
parascientific and popularly believed myths, etc. 

Fascinating about scholars of the young set, students at Leeds,
and I suspect on many other campuses world-wide, in a
February 19, 2009 article in the UK Guardian, journalist,
Sue Blackmore’s article describes the mindset of those some
of who will take a place in society as influentials, i.e, politics,
business, education, express ideas about atheism, and the
consensus of this group is that atheism is important in
challenging religious oppression, listing important topics as
the religious repression of sexuality, and the maltreatment of
women by religion.”  This group who are on the iconoclastic
side, exempts no religion and when taking Islam to task on
Mohammad, received death threats.  Now this is the kind of
reportage that sets my mind aflame.  Freedom of thought,
speech, and writing is I believe one of the universal sacred
rights of every individual.  Those who disagree with the
criticisms are welcome to argue against any accusation
about any religion, but they are not entitled to do physical
harm to any one on account of it.  Those who do criticize
desire such argument as their own thinking can be refined
and clarified of more truth.

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By Shenonymous, December 9, 2009 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment

Looks like hard returns need to be put in at the end of each line.
Well here goes…sorry again.

christian96, please do not to give one scintilla of concern
if you must be elsewhere than on TD.  TD for me is a
pastime to ordinary life, an ordinary life that often calls for
most of my time, and I would hope that is how it is for you
and all the other participants on TD.  I suspect sometimes
however this residence is where they live 24/7 and that is a
very sad opinion and I hope it is only an opinion and not fact.

You might be right about Paul, I am not convinced as I have
read all of the biblical references, which are copious, that I
gave in my earlier post, and much pro, and con, about his
views.  It is a fact that he authored more books of the New
Testament than any other to whom the books are attributed,
and I have read as much about his biography as I could find. 
I am not in anyway enamored by this historical man’s views
nor writings though I have read them, including the 13 letters
that were not included in the Scripture. 

I am most interested in who made comments especially if it
is claimed the words were inspired by God.  For this I have to
determine if those really were the words of God.  It cannot
reasonably be proposed that all writings are the word of God,
even if they are found in the Bible, for there were many texts
that were excluded from the bible when the Council decided
which books were worthy.  Why any book was included is still
unclear and debated by biblical scholars.  Many of the rest of
the texts are considered as Apocrypha and are available from
a number of sources. 

The amount of literature about the bible and the stories found
therein does not surprise as mankind has the ultimately supreme
inventive mind as witnessed by all the literature in the world from
the original Vedas of Hinduism to every scrap in contemporary
time that if all collected would fill the Library of Congress fivefold. 
Humankind is a literary animal and stories are often taken as truth
and revelation.  I do believe all the religious texts are fanciful
inventions and not the Word of any extraterrestial being as it
defies any rational thought and logic.  And to say that God is
not logical would be to my mind a blasphemy. 

The nature and truth of God whether the Western Christian, Middle
Eastern Hebrew or Muslim, or any other candidate in any non-
western religion is food for much civil argument.  If that is the
desire of anyone to do here, it certainly can happen.  The violently
irrationally passionate are not welcome in my face and personally
I will absolutely ignore any such post.

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By Shenonymous, December 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment

Gee, I checked back and found this last double post of
mine was in such a mess format wise.  I don’t understand
why that happens.  It take great care so it won’t be so
difficult to read.  Well I am going to repost it to see if
I can get it right.  I do apologize and ask for your pardon.

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By Shenonymous, December 9, 2009 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

How funny. Only quotes.  How, doublestandards/glasshouses, do you select the
quotes?  Is there some method to your madness?  Shenonymous says, “Atheists
don’t pray… unless they are forced to take out the trash, then they pray the
trashman has not picked up yet because it will be around for another week
attracting flies.”

I purchased the Hawton book you recommended, The Thinker’s Handbook,
Tom Edgar, probably the last copy to be found anywhere in the world! and will
read it for ‘pleasure.”  Also, Hector Hawton’s Philosophy for Pleasure another
book he wrote, while delightful and unpretentious, is probably not a book for
the serious philosophy scholar, but it probably might do for busy ‘new’
thinkers to find out quickly what it’s all about, Alfie. 

Seems like Carl Sagan said it all in his Baloney Detection Kit that can be found
in a number of places on the internet, but the one I found most readable, text
unchanged, is http://www.kent-hovind.com/baloney.htm

In his book, The Demon-Haunted World…, Sagan, a preeminent scientist of the
20th century, gave a great deal of serious thought to psuedoscientific
experiences, parascientific and popularly believed myths, etc. 

Fascinating about scholars of the young set, students at Leeds, and I suspect
on many other campuses world-wide, in a February 19, 2009 article in the UK
Guardian, journalist, Sue Blackmore’s article describes the mindset of those
some of who will take a place in society as influentials, i.e, politics, business,
education, express ideas about atheism, and the consensus of this group is that
atheism is important in challenging religious oppression, listing important
topics as the religious repression of sexuality, and the maltreatment of women
by religion.”  This group who are on the iconoclastic side, exempts no religion
and when taking Islam to task on Mohammad, received death threats.  Now this
is the kind of reportage that sets my mind aflame. 

Freedom of thought, speech, and writing is I believe one of the universal sacred
rights of every individual.  Those who disagree with the criticisms are welcome
to argue against any accusation about any religion, but they are not entitled to
do physical harm to any one on account of it.  Those who do criticize desire
such argument as their own thinking can be refined and clarified of more truth.

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By Shenonymous, December 9, 2009 at 11:34 am Link to this comment

christian96, please do not to give one scintilla of concern if you must be
elsewhere than on TD.  TD for me is a pastime to ordinary life, an ordinary life
that often calls for most of my time, and I would hope that is how it is for you
and all the other participants on TD.  I suspect sometimes however this
residence is where they live 24/7 and that is a very sad opinion and I hope it is
only an opinion and not fact.

You might be right about Paul, I am not convinced as I have read all of the
biblical references, which are copious, that I gave in my earlier post, and much
pro, and con, about his views.  It is a fact that he authored more books of the
New Testament than any other to whom the books are attributed, and I have
read as much about his biography as I could find.  I am not in anyway
enamored by this historical man’s views nor writings though I have read them,
including the 13 letters that were not included in the Scripture. 

I am most interested in who made comments especially if it is claimed the
words were inspired by God.  For this I have to determine if those really were
the words of God.  It cannot reasonably be proposed that all writings are the
word of God, even if they are found in the Bible, for there were many texts that
were excluded from the bible when the Council decided which books were
worthy.  Why any book was included is still unclear and debated by biblical
scholars.  Many of the rest of the texts are considered as Apocrypha and are
available from a number of sources. 

The amount of literature about the bible and the stories found therein does not
surprise as mankind has the ultimately supreme inventive mind as witnessed by
all the literature in the world from the original Vedas of Hinduism to every
scrap in contemporary time that if all collected would fill the Library of
Congress fivefold.  Humankind is a literary animal and stories are often taken
as truth and revelation.  I do believe all the religious texts are fanciful
inventions and not the Word of any extraterrestial being as it defies any
rational thought and logic.  And to say that God is not logical would be to my
mind a blasphemy. 

The nature and truth of God whether the Western Christian, Middle Eastern
Hebrew or Muslim, or any other candidate in any non-western religion is food
for much civil argument.  If that is the desire of anyone to do here, it certainly
can happen.  The violently irrationally passionate are not welcome in my face
and personally I will absolutely ignore any such post.

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By garth, December 9, 2009 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

A little earlier in this thread I featured the Apostle, St John, who said, “God is Love.”  To which Eoliphan suggested that it was a Use-Mention Error, adding, “Now what?”
At this time, I’d like to feature St, Paul in his rendition of “How High the Moon” to answer the question, “Now, what?”

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;”

I think that is his answer to your question, “Now, what?”

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By christian96, December 9, 2009 at 9:29 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous—-Sorry about being so late getting
back to you.  I have been searching for some material
I had on Paul but still have been unable to locate
it.  Off the top of my head it seems that Paul was
making reference to women in church who were talking
and interrupting services when he made the comment
“women should be silent in church.” Being a counselor
and psychologist you think I would have spent more
time trying to research the personalities of the
authors of the Bible.  However, I am not interested
in who made the comments as much as I am in the comments since the words were inspired by God.

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By DaveZx3, December 9, 2009 at 12:20 am Link to this comment

Totally unrelated to the thread, but previously in response to Night-Gaunt and/or Tom Edgar, I brought up the subject of cattle mutilations as a potential supernatural or paranormal phenomenon. 

In digging into the subject, I am still not 100% sure enough of what is going on, but believe it to be some sort of high level monitoring of the advancement of a fatal condition caused by “misfolded proteins” known as prions. 

These misfolded proteins seat themselves in the host brain and immediately begin to turn it into hole-filled sponge-like material.  The different types of prions infect different parts of the brain. 
 
The frightening progress of this condition can be detected by the ever increasing warnings by British health officials related to the consumption of beef. First it was “don’t eat the brains”, and that expanded after many progressive iterations to “don’t eat anything on the bone”  Expect to see recommendations against eating any beef very soon, if it has not already happened.  Probable demise of the beef industry in Britain & around the world.  All due to mad cow disease, a prionic condition.

Prions have apparently invaded at rapidly increasing levels all around the globe.  Found in animals of all sorts and humans, not just cows. 

Cattle mutilations are apparently accomplished with high heat (400+ degrees) probably surgical lasers.  Prions are not destroyed at normal sterilization temperatures. Surgical instruments are transmitting these killers, and Britian is also experiencing infection due to simple surgeries and new rules regarding surgical instruments.

Some blurbs regarding the chemtrail mysteries and ufo sightings coincidental to mutilation scenes.

Mostly organs taken are tongues, eyes, rectums.  Evidence of cattle being dropped from altitude, crushing of bones, horns dug into earth, internal bleeding.  No external bleeding from organ removal.

Organs taken convenient for monitoring what goes in and what goes out and what is in the head/brain.  You would think if health authorities were doing the monitoring, it would be done in a slightly less grotesque manner, and not in secret. 

There does not seem to be any other motive for mutilating these cattle, other than monitoring of some sort.  At least when they abduct humans, they return them in one piece.  Cattle they just roll them out the door. 

Reminds me of a strange photograph I saw a year or so ago, taken in clear daylight, of a cow hovering under a large pyramid shaped black but well-lit object.  I am not making that up.

Whoever, whatever???  It is an outrageously strange world we live in, and if you think you know the source and reason for everything, you are more deluded than you think I am. 

I thought I better attach at least one link to the prion thing to satisfy the scientifically inclined among us. 

http://www.microbiologybytes.com/virology/Prions.html

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By Tom Edgar, December 8, 2009 at 11:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Night Gaunt.
You will see where from one of my earlier postings that I mentioned my Medical Practitioner who I consider a respected friend. Joseph Chiappalone. Google him I think he is along your lines. Unfortunately he is now in for a triple heart bypass.  I seem to wear out doctors whilst staying, relatively, fit myself.

Skeptic?  My late wife (a Quaker) thought I was skeptical about being a skeptic, I was very skeptical about that.

From the dim recesses of antiquarian memory Fort (Hoy Fort?) was a professional writer who wrote the “Damned” purporting to be answers to unanswered phenomena. A bit of a cross between Von Danniken and
Ron Hubbard. Nowhere,from my memory, did he actually supply any evidence.  Mostly it was HIS answers (Without validation) to what science of the time (19th/20th century) had not, or could not reach a conclusive answer. Very much like religion. “Can’t supply proof but this is definitely the answer even if we are not sure what the question is.”

As I said it is along time ago, more than sixty year in fact, and as I was evidently unimpressed then, to the point that I saw him as of no relevance.  I don’t feel inclined to immerse
myself again. Try “The Thinkers Handbook” by Hector Hawton.  WW2 R A F pilot. Extraordinary philosophical thinker.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 8, 2009 at 10:32 pm Link to this comment

I am skeptical. But just not enough for you. Which is fine I am only 52 and poorly traveled. Still I didn’t say they wouldn’t have an explanation just one that you might not agree with and without mystical jargon either. Ever read any of Charles Fort? He found that stuffy closed science was leaving out a lot of things they didn’t think could or should exist. So he delighted in researching them then publishing them to their chagrin. Unfortunately this isn’t psychological, just not usual or repeatable in a lab. At least not yet. [My own hypothesis is that these “animals” are from another dimension of existence that has life and some can come over to us at certain times of the year when our dimensional plenums are synchronized and permeable. They can sup on us and we are none the wiser since they usually come at night time while we sleep.] These aren’t bed bugs. Their vision is such that they can see things we can’t like bees can see in 6 dimensions and infra red.

I admit in my research I hadn’t come across such reports till only after. There is an explanation and it isn’t hallucinations whether hypnogogic or any other kind. But it is easier for you to dismiss me on that and that is fine for it does me no service to relate this. Believe me when I say we have barely plumed the depths of our own world alone which is still full of the unknown so other dimensions are not even on the horizon of our collective consciousness just yet.

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By Tom Edgar, December 8, 2009 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Night Gaunt.
Bit of a loss.  My last was in response to David and Colin so I can hazard only guesses to what you refer.

I have, many years ago, travelled the world from the antarctic to the arctic circles. I have lived in cities and in the “Outback.” Never once have I seen anything that didn’t have an explanation.

The most bizarre, and this I have had published, was along the 48th Parallel.  With a glass like sea. On the horizon, four times normal size, a fully rigged sailing ship. to be mounted alternately upside down, then right way up four times.  After some ten minutes it faded to be replaced by the same apparition but this time an aircraft carrier. This was no more than, in the first instance, the Pamir which we had hailed the day earlier and the second, probably, our own ship being projected as a mirage.
Earlier mariners would no doubt attribute this to something else.

There is nothing that doesn’t have an explanation.
Sometimes we don’t know what the explanation is.

The whole of my, reasonably long life, has been totally devoid of any unexplainable experiences. In war and peace, I have experienced both peaceful and violent deaths, not my own thankfully. I have been close though on quite a few occasions.  Never once has it crossed my mind to look for extra terrestrial assistance. Not in the silence and solitude of “The Bush” nor on the vastness of the oceans did I experience other than explainable phenomena.
Right now I live in the mountains in a very quiet valley. If I use binoculars I can just make out my neighbours place.  Sorry but we have had no nocturnal or diurnal visitations from Betelgeuse or anywhere else.  Gods or Extraterrestrials.
If you don’t believe in them then you’ll never see them. Used to see fairies and my Guardian Angel when I was little. Haven’t seen them either, since I stopped believing in them and Santa Claus.

So start taking the medication and you’ll be quite
O K. The medication is easy and tasteless. Be skeptical.

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By Brenden, December 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

berniem, you say that “time is a construct of our
intellect and is non-existent in a non-measurable
context.” and you say that “Light speed is a constant”
but speed is defined as distance over time so if time
doesn’t exist speed can’t exist either.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 8, 2009 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

Well Tom Edgar you sound like those in the 17th century who said the idea of rocks falling from the sky was preposterous. When someone did come forth and said he not only saw them fall but found one he was put on trial and found guilty. Unfortunately that same kind of mind set is around. I wish I could show you my two experiences. There are many others with equally strange (to our way of seeing the world) that goes on all the time. In fact if I were a good interviewer I bet I could find at least one in your life that would also qualify. Mental illness? No. Not all of it. It is just that there is more out there than is accepted but it isn’t common enough to be put into the natural canon of our general world view. Science has yet to see that there is more than their math can yet account for. Maybe it will in the future if we survive to discover it and the paranormal becomes normal. Other rare occurrences that is just a part of reality not yet found out and identified. “We will believe you!” as was said in “Ghostbusters.”

Once you reach a certain level of development you could come to a world like ours and seem like a god to them. Claim to be the creator and to rule such uneducated beings. Most of them anyway. Not myself for one. Manipulation of energy in ways that would look little different between “Harry Potter” and “Star Trek” much less “Ghostbusters.”

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By Tom Edgar, December 8, 2009 at 8:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

David and Colin 62 etc.,

O.K. You had no compunction about belittling and denigrating but, when answered where is your acceptance, answers, or apologies?

Can only interpret it as defeat, disillusionment,
or your dissertation destroyed.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, December 8, 2009 at 4:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Atheists pray for nothing and all their prayers are
answered.

“Religion isn’t a theory; it’s a lover affair.”
                    G K Chesterton

“I was six when I saw that everything was God and
my hair stood up, and all” Teddy said.  “It was on a
Sunday, I remember.  My sister was a tiny child then,
and she was drinking her milk, and all of a sudden
I saw that she was God and the milk was God.  I mean
all she was doing was pouring God into God, if you
know what I mean.”
                      J D Salinger


“Someday you’ll be drinking a cup of tea and it will
hit you - it isn’t you drinking the tea, it’s the
universe.”             
                    Trungpa Rinpoche


“If you were able to tell a child in the womb that
there was a huge world outside with people and
mountains and forests and oceans he wouldn’t believe
you.”                 
                      Rumi

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By Shenonymous, December 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

1.  To christian96
Thank you for your courteous comment to me christian96.  I know you and I have
had our disagreements but I believe we have always been civil and polite. I hope
we have.  In any event, we are that way now, aren’t we?  We have even agreed
before too! This is not the first time.  It seems to me amicable discussion furthers
dialogue if that is what one is after, and that is what I am always after.  But
sometimes I get waylaid by mud-slingers, and other verbal abuses and belittling
in the attempt to humiliate me, which in kind I returned as a countermeasure.  I’ve
had good practice in my lifetime.  Wow, it has been nasty, but I was raised with
very testy family members!  Well, on TD, that is over at least on my part.

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By Shenonymous, December 8, 2009 at 2:39 pm Link to this comment

2.  To christian96 continued.
Since you asked: Biblical references regarding Paul: Acts well illustrates his
enmity against the pagans and particularly Jews and women.  Also his
antagonism with the other apostles is there as well, which actually omits his
fight with Peter.  By the way he was executed, beheaded, for reasons unknown,
in Rome in sometime between 64 and 67 A.D. by Nero, some think he was
martyred as Nero was in a persecuting mood, and because Nero was
considered the Man of Sin, the AntiChrist, and most likely because his new
religion was against Nero’s Pantheon of Jupiter.  If so, then he was once again
prosecuted for his preaching having been jailed in various places through the
decades.  His remains were ‘given’ to a British King in 665 A.D. for unspecified
reasons.  Very odd he should wind up in England!  All accounts of his execution
are vague and non-conclusive.

In Phil. 3:5, Paul admits at first he persecuted Christians then later came to
believe what he had so militantly fought against, I guess he thought he would
receive absolution.  Acts 9:1-9 vividly describes the vision Paul had of Jesus
Christ on that famous road to Damascus, which caused him to dramatically
reverse his opinion. Paul himself offers no clear description of the event in any
of his surviving letters.  This, with the fact that the author of Acts (supposedly
himself) describes his conversion with subtle differences in two later passages,
which has led some scholars to question whether Paul’s vision actually
occurred.  The dates of all these writings seems to defy logic in that they did
not appear until almost 50 years after the death of Jesus.  He never met Jesus. 
Even Jesus’ alleged half brother, who had to be between 60 and 70 supposedly
met up with Paul in Jerusalem before Paul moves on to Rome. 

Betraying his pagan past in the ideas and beliefs Paul introduced these beliefs
in 13 letters. For example, death as atonement for sin, and the drinking of the
body and blood of Christ for salvation, is similar to the pagan mystery religions
of the Mediterranean.  These are not unique to Christianity; they were features
of the native god of his home town, Baal Taraz. Furthermore, the death of a
god-man atoning for sin is alien to Judaism; animals, not men or gods, were
sacrificed for sin.  Even the symbolic eating and drinking of a god-man’s flesh
and blood were abhorrent notions to Jews, since it is cannibalism, and the
drinking of blood is expressly forbidden by Torah.  Paul took martyr-like pride
in being turned away from the synagogues of Jews who refuse to listen his
message.  In reality, he was turned away because his teachings were taken
directly from contemporary pagan mystery religions. Jews of that time would
have known his teachings were alien to Judaism.

In Cor.I 14:34-35 and Eph. 5:22-30 and at Col. 3:18-19,  Paul specifies
women are subservient to their husbands and must be submissive.  “Women
should remain silent in the churches.  They are not allow to speak….as the law
says….it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” is on of the most
famous lines.  More may be read throughout Tim.I 2:8-15.  About having no
place in church management, Titus 1:5-6.  How heads must be covered and
who was created for whom:  women for man, not man for women: Cor.1 11:3-
9.  Other places in the Bible where misogynistic writings appear Philemon and
Romans 16.


I wondered why Saul of Tarsus’s name was changed to Paul.  Was it contrived
to keep the new Christian separated from King Saul of the Jews?

Paul the apostle believed Jesus would show up risen from the dead within his
own lifetime, it did not happen.

Besides the Bible, there are over six thousand references on google for Paul. 
Besides the usual Wikipedia, the following is one that seems to cover much
ground.
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Paul_of_Tarsus

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By christian96, December 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous—-I agree wholeheartedly that people
need to know about cultures other than the one they
were indoctrinated into as children.  If I can
recall correctly from my Sociology courses many
moons ago the word “ethnocentric” descibed the
process of judging others by your own culture
and deeming your own culture to be superior.  I
think people in Washington skipped those courses.
As far as Paul disliking women I think he has been
misunderstood.  Could you give me specific verses
you are thinking about?  Thanks.  I have to run to
converse with my insurance agent.  Today is the
last day to do so.  I’ll get back to you later.

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By Shenonymous, December 8, 2009 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

What people are you talking about christian96 that want “proof” for religion? 
Are you talking about the “weezers and the alls?”

It isn’t really important what is incorrectly thought about atheists.  What is
important is one’s integrity.  As an atheist, I’ve never looked for proof for my
disbelief.  There was nothing in either the Bible or sermons or written
arguments that ever compelled my belief.  When I researched for comparative
religions classes I found too much was borrowed by the Abrahamic religions
from earlier cultures:  the Assyrians, Babylonians, the Greeks and farther back
the neolithic precursors to the Greeks, Mycenaen and even earlier images found
in archaeologic finds that tell the tales of gods and monsters.  It is difficult to
believe that it was all not passionate conjecture by the writers of the scriptures
and texts. Learning the Torah was written by unknowns and the New
Testament was written almost entirely by Paul, writing 14 books of the 27
included in the Bible by a much later council.  Maybe Paul wrote more that
deeper research will uncover?  Then there is so much controversy about the
character Jesus supposed progeny of God.  That whole story along with the
Garden story, and Noah was much too preposterous for a rebel teenager, me. 
The misogyny of Paul cinched it especially when I read how he commanded the
way women ought to be treated.  Too much in the books of the Qu’ran is
borrowed from the other two Abrahamic religions to not believe it was nothing
more than a political effort to counteract the perceived imposition of Judaism
and the relatively new religion Christianity that was about 632 years prior to
Islam.  In those days religions directed most daily life whether it was the
organized religions of Abraham or others such as the paganism of Sikhs and
Bahai that Islam also sought to displace.  The story of Moses helped a great
deal to rid that part of the world of Baal for instance.

When I learned not one book of the NT was written until 50 years after the
death of Jesus, I felt there was a huge problem.  All the talk of a “revealed”
religion is nonsensical invention to give credibility to the dogma of Paul.  Paul
had it in for the Jews and was incensed to disestablish them as the religion of
that area.  Islam had not been produced yet.  He had a field day since the
Romans hated the Jews as well and had disenfranchised them.

Then seeing that the God of the Old Testament was such a frightening entity
allegedly creating mankind yet befalling the most heinous things to that
creation cinched it for me. 

I have never been a “militant” atheist and have never ever actively attempted to
change or sway anyone’s beliefs.  To be truly free in one’s thinking, I believe
others independently have to come to their own conclusions.  The atheist does
not have attachments to beliefs except one, that dogmatic beliefs are
completely suspect of containing truth. That is not dogmatic in itself because if
any evidence did show up, and it was incontrovertible, atheists would be forced
to believe it by virtue of their own respect of logic.

It seems Richard, your assessment has more than a passing truth to it.  It is
hard to say what Armstrong’s personal belief is. She came to her literary skills
out of an occupation from a religious nunnery, Catholic, but has found the
lucrative pre-occupation of writing books.  People are hungry for knowledge
about a radically changing world of the last millennia.  I have a half-dozen of
her books among my interest in learning a non-biblical view of God, Islam and
the Middle Eastern mind.  Islam strangely enough was left out of the religion
classes I took.  Later, on reflection, I felt it was a prejudice or bigotry that kept
any discussion about Islam out of my western college courses.  By necessity
that exclusion has been corrected.  People of today’s world need to know what
other cultures think of life and existence.

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By Richard, December 8, 2009 at 4:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whatever is said here, when you go to your local church they quite definitely expect literal belief. It is these types of maybe more evangelical churches that get the atheist comments.

Karen seems to be heading in the same direction as many of the more new-age or new-hindu type movements which much more loosely define their god. She could be pantheist, or even by sounds of things accept God as Dharma like the Buddhist. It is far less defined, but religious practice is still there. Perhaps if religious people did that there’d be less fighting, less evangelism.

It is quite different to the religion we see more of today, if only because it is the evangelical dogmatic religion that we hear more from. It is hard to imagine one of the people who’ll say “Jesus loves you” subscribing to this.

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By Tom Edgar, December 7, 2009 at 9:06 pm Link to this comment

Davo and Colin62.etc.,

If you Google Joseph Chiappalone MD.(he spent some years in Arizona.) You’ll find a friend.
As for him keeping me spry.  Right at this moment, and a good fifteen years younger than I, he is having a triple heart by pass. Oh well his predecessor George Bush, died at even earlier an age. I’ll have to stop wearing them out keeping me healthy.  I think it is more to do with, living in the “Bush” at 3000 feet, no alcohol, no smoking, no drugs, and a daily light exercise, routine coupled with NEVER buying soft drinks or packaged food.  No religion could be a help.  I have more money for healthy living. Oh the G Bush.  A Texan and yep! first cousin to the one that SHOULD have died.

Oh biased, bigotted Colin. Claiming others shouldn’t make commentary on religion because they are not religious, yet willing to be defamatory of skeptics and atheists when in all probability not even actually knowing one.

For your edification young fellow most of the dedicated atheists I have met in my eighty plus years have studied deeply the Bible the Koran the Gita,& the Upanishads.
I doubt that you have even perused the writings of Lord Bertrand Russell, Hector Hawton, or for that matter Sam Harris, and heaven forbid Charles Darwin.
Most atheists have COME from a religious upbringing.  That is the only way you become religious. Every single baby is born an unbeliever.
Religion has to be indoctrinated. That is why different religions are self perpetuating, especially amongst the less than average educated.
Nobody comes to religion of their own volition, even converts need exposure to an alternative.  Some from others, some from experiences, and some from an intellectual awakening leading to emancipation.

Your denigration of those from whom you perceive dissent does you no credit. Religious people have no monopoly on the artistic/poetic aspects of life, no more than the irreligious have a monopoly on the seamier aspects of the present, or the past.  I remind you that the prisons of the world and America’s in particular are populated overwhelmingly by “Believers” totally disproportionate to the non criminals outside.

Ellie Wiesel didn’t abandon God.  He abandoned religion because he saw that there was no response
from his previously believed God. Bit of a tough awakening. My personal journey started when the blood of a parachuting, machine gunned German airman
dropped on me. He was gunned whilst helpless by an allied, fighter pilot. (It was highly likely they were both Christians.) My freedom from religion journey was strengthened after burrowing under bombed buildings for flattened bodies and I was in my early teens. Later I served overseas (WW2) My atheism was confirmed by many acts.

Your arrogance is propounded by. “Atheists” not being able to write poetically.  Bit late to tell that to Joyce, G B Shaw or Mark Twain. You have the temerity to think that the little epistles I wrote to and of my late Quaker wife were of lust, not love.
Never a day in forty six years did I miss telling her of my love, which continued for many years after sexual activity had ceased. Dead 11 years and my love is still as strong. Don’t tell me my love was only lust because I was an atheist, and your lust is love because you are not.

Finally most atheists do not leave religion because of suffering, by themselves, or seeing it in others.
Most leave for intellectual reasons but I don’t expect you to understand that.

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By christian96, December 7, 2009 at 8:27 pm Link to this comment

People want “proof” for religion.  Christianity is
the only religion that foretold numerous things to
come in the future and they did.  Name one other
religion where someone was able to accurately predict
the future?  You can’t because there isn’t one.
Even while dying on the cross Jesus ask “Father
why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus knew God hadn’t
forsaken him.  He was giving us a message.  He was
instructing us to turn to Psalm 22 which begins with
the same words, “Father why have you forsaken me?”
Then, Psalm 22 goes on to describe not only a man
being crucified but men at the foot of the cross
gambling for his clothes.  Psalm 22 was written by
King David approx. 1000 years before Jesus was
crucified.  How do you explain that?  In the Old
Testament King Darius was predicted to arrive by
name hundreds of years before he was born. When asked
what would be the signs before his second coming in
Matthew 14, Jesus said there would be many false
teachers and prophets arise on the scene.  How about
Jim Jones and David Koresch?  Just to name two.  The
television is full of false teachers.  I know because I know the Bible.  Jesus also predicted the
gospel(good news of the kingdom of God) would be
preached throughout the world.  With satellite
communication we are fully capable of doing just that.  I’ve only mentioned a few of many prophecies
from the Bible.  They are numerous.  How about God
predicting that Israel would return to the land?
It didn’t happen for 2000 years but on May 14, 1948
it did happen when once again Israel became a nation.
You want proof?  There is plenty of proof through
the fulfillment of prophecies.  100% fulfilled so
far.  There are others to be fulfilled but they are
just around the corner, for example the time of
trouble such has never been on earth.  Why is God
going to let this happen?  To try to get you to
repent and turn to the teachings of the Bible.  Sadly, most of you won’t! But a few will.  When
this great tribulation arrives just remember “the
Bible predicted it!”

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By DaveZx3, December 7, 2009 at 6:58 pm Link to this comment

Tom,

“NO CLUE TO WHAT IS GOING ON THERE. But believe it to be spiritual/supernatural.”............WHY?

Thanks for the response.  No problem if you want me to come “down under”.  No cost to you.  Probably no value to you or me either, and I would rather spend the time with your physician.

I’m no expert on crop circles or cattle mutilations.
Interested, but no time to investigate.  The cattle scene was totally gross.  Cannot imagine what does something like that.  But again, no time or energy to investagate.  One of these days I’ll do some Googling to see what I can turn up.

Regarding the “why” above, I don’t have a specific answer.  I will retract it, as it is just as plausible that these events are caused by your physician.  Congratulate him for me for keeping you so spry and sharp at the age of mid-80’s.

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By colin2626262, December 7, 2009 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Jollimore,

Your book review made me want to read Karen Armstrong’s new book, so thank you for giving me a suggestion for my reading list.  I can’t thank you for your presentation, however.  I wouldn’t expect a “secular ethicist” to grasp the nature of religious belief considering you have no religious belief.  Religion is not for the irreligious.  I’m surprised, actually, that you managed to get through all of Armstrong’s book, since you’re obviously hostile to any idea of religious belief.  You did read it though, I’m sure, because you wanted to try your best to intellecually dismember it.  You wanted to show off your powers of reasoning, and you did a good job of that.  Unfortunately, you’re dealing with the wrong subject.  You read the wrong book, Mr. Jollimore.  This isn’t for you.  You’ve made your decision not to believe in God, not to practice any kind of faith.  You don’t care for religion.  You think it’s just a bunch of garbage, that it makes no sense.  Why then do you think you can understand it?  You don’t want to understand it.  You’ve already dismissed it because it doesn’t fit into your rational world.  After all, God couldn’t possibly care about you since you’ve suffered in your life.  Right?  This is why everyone abandons God.  Even believers in God abandon God because of suffering.  Look at Elie Wiesel’s book ‘Night.’  The boy in the story, Wiesel himself as a teenager in Auschwitz, rejects God.  And this is the same boy who, before seeing and experiencing the worst suffering and evil imaginable, used to study religious texts all day.  He lost his faith in God because of the suffering he experienced in the world.  Talk about science and a meaningful secular life all you want, but everyone knows (including atheists) that a life without God is nihilistic at best—pure evil at worst.  I think your self-title as a “secular-ethicist” is a contradiction in terms, yet you don’t realize that.  You don’t see anything other than what your eyes perceive.  This is empiricism, right?  You have to verify your truth with respect to your senses.  Anyone who denies God is a materialist, a sensualist, and also a person for whom the one meaningful aspect of life has absolutely no meaning: that aspect is love.  Can you see love with your eyes?  Can love be perceived by the senses?  Furthermore, is love rational?  No atheist would deny that love exists; they just deny that it has any relation to spiritual life, to God—even though it must be admitted that love cannot be seen and is therefore, by definition, spiritual.  Unless, of course, you’re an atheist, and then love can be seen with the eyes.  Love, for the atheist, becomes another evolutionary adaptation, or is simply reduced to the biological aspect, namely reproduction.  I wonder if you’ve written any love poems, Mr. Jollimore.  If you haven’t, you might want to try.  However, you’ll have to stop being an atheist.  Otherwise, they won’t be love poems; they’ll just be lust poems, and they’ll be trash.  So having said all that, I would hope you would stay in your area of expertise in the future.  Don’t stray into areas you know nothing about and then try to write a review of the subject matter.  I don’t mean to sound cruel.  Maybe someday you could read book like Armstrong’s and understand them and write about them with some knowledge.  But before you do that, you’ll have to abandon your skepticism.  Skeptics—that’s people who deny God—should not be trying to write about what God means or who God is.  That would be like me trying to give a lecture on physics to Einstein when I have no knowledge of physics except what I learned in eleventh grade.  It’s important to understand that religious belief, as you said at the end of your review, is personal, not to be understood by skeptical outsiders like yourself.  Relgion is also a mystery, and only those who are within the mystery can understand and love it.

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By Tom Edgar, December 7, 2009 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Davo

I’ll start with the last.  Whilst I have, within my own previous profession, lectured at tertiary level, taught at secondary, accumulated a little knowledge along the way, I am afraid that in my mid eighties I am unlikely to embrace the idea of attending “College”  It is highly unlikely also that I would invite you to visit “Down Under.”.. My personal Physician is also an “Extra Terrestrial” fruitcake Joseph Chiappalone. It doesn’t stop him from being an excellent doctor nor for that matter a damned nice fellow, and a person whom I have a great deal of respect.

I don’t feel I need to add any more than to suggest you read your own submission from a different perspective, seeing how ridiculous it sounds as you verify everything I said. Just one of your sentences, for me, is a perfect summation. “NO CLUE TO WHAT IS GOING ON THERE. But believe it to be spiritual/supernatural.”............WHY?

I’ll tell you the story of the supernatural and of being invited to investigate the nightly appearance.
“Why the shotgun?”  “Well! If it IS supernatural buckshot won’t hurt it.”  Strange how that was the night without an apparition.

“Science is getting into it.”??? Creation Science maybe, but nobody in the real scientific world gives that credibility.

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By DaveZx3, December 7, 2009 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

Tom Edgar, December 7 at 7:14 pm

“Where is your evidence for a God? Not quotations from the Bible, Koran, Talmud. If there is even a scintilla of verifiable evidence for probability it would shake atheism. There is none.  If definite proof is available, and nobody has ever claimed there to have any, then atheism is dead”.

Regarding evidence as per a physical manifestation, God’s last scheduled visit about 2K years ago was met with a very unpleasant reception.  Previous brief physical manifestations were of a very personal nature, without much documentation.  The next scheduled visit should be within 100 years or less, but will be fairly unplesant for most involved, so I would try not to be around if I were you.

If you need more immediate evidence, it would have to be spiritual in naure, usually triggered by doing what He asks people to do.  What you do is search diligently for Him, and then he reveals himself. 

If you need absolute immediate proof of this, it would have to be second hand proof, attested to by someone who has had that experience. I am willing to be your proof.  Tell me where you live and I will come there and allow you to question me, give me a lie detector, stare in my eyes, whatever you need.
I will need no less than 8 weeks notice, as I have a lot of obligations. 

Maybe there is someone more local that you could convince to be your proof, but I doubt it as most do not feel any compelling reason to provide proof, knowing that no spiritual good comes from proof, but from faith, which is rewarded in God’s time with proof.

There are places you can get a college education real quick also, but they are about as useless as proof.

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By DaveZx3, December 7, 2009 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt, December 7 at 4:07 pm #

“Are all the religions right, all wrong or just mistaken?”

My reading is that you can detect a root of truth in most religions, as though they, like language, all evolved through common sources.  But then, through neglect, fear, misunderstanding, ego, greed and politics, you see a diversity in religion which would lead you to believe that they have almost nothing in common and little truth left in them.  Many religions are just flat made up as a type of commercial enterprise.  Some are just conversions from paganism, maintaining many of the same customs and holidays. 

These empty religions and the empty people in them are routinely refered to as trees bearing no fruit or bad fruit.  They are the olive tree with no taksch.  Also, one of my favorites is when they are called “clouds without water”.  You can imagine how derogatory that is for someone living in the arid desert. 

Some scripture is original and inspired, some not.  Some translated until it does not resemble anything original. 

This is why writing like 2CR 3 is important.  It shows that it is useless to soley rely on the writing of man, when a much better source is available.  This is not to belittle scripture, as it is good for initial teaching, but it will really not bring any real understanding, as it is written like a broken up 1000 piece puzzle that has been put back in the box loose and shaken up for ten minutes.  Good luck trying to make any sense of that. 

The religious will criticize me heavily for these statements about scripture, so I had better reiterate that some is totally inspired, using the hand of man as an instrument only.  It is up to you to discern which is which.  Spiritual truth is best spiritually discerned, not literally discerned.

Overall, I do not recommend religion, but I do recommend following God.  Finding the truth of God is no different than finding the truth of anything else.  It requires a lot of digging.  A real lot.  It is said that God will reveal himself to those who diligently seek him.  I find that to be true. 

I haven’t commented on your supernatural experiences, but that is a topic which could take up volumes. 

I personally have seen day old cattle mutilation (gross beyond description) and a crop circle in Kempston, England.  No clue what is going on there, but believe it to be spiritual/supernatural. 

Never had any personal contact with anything, but heard many, many stories of people who have (possession, exorcism, etc) I think many, many people have had these experiences, but do not admit it.  I think there are spiritual explanations for this stuff, and would love to start a thread on that subject.  Very poor forum for it though, takes too long to get through the volumes of information available. 

Science is starting to get into it, and I think it will open a Pandora’s box, never to be shut again.

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By Tom Edgar, December 7, 2009 at 3:14 pm Link to this comment

Sometimes I think it is a waste of time tying to sink into the thick skulls of the deluded that their interpretation of atheism is a total misconception.

Christian 96 is typical. “Atheists only believe what they can see.”  This is so wrong it only beggars the question.  “How many atheists do you know?”

I believe as do you, if you have an education, in many things we cannot see. Tectonic Plates, Electrical brain waves, Gravity.  There is evidence that validates the belief.  The ONLY thing atheists have variance with you is A=without Theism. It has little to do with Christianity or its particular God, or Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and their Gods. How do you reconcile your fixation for the correctness of your God but not the Brahmanic ones? How is it that you are theistic in Christianity but atheistic to Hinduism?

I repeatedly ask and never have received an answer.
Where is your evidence for a God? Not quotations from the Bible, Koran, Talmud. If there is even a scintilla of verifiable evidence for probability it would shake atheism. There is none.  If definite proof is available, and nobody has ever claimed there to have any, then atheism is dead.

As for the posting by Night Gaunt.  I have an S D A friend with a similar answer to that presented by you. I was able to offer her a referral to a friend highly qualified in psychiatry.  As you are probably in the Americas I, sincerely and seriously, suggest you ask locally for some help.

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By christian96, December 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

If atheists only believe in what they can see and
hear they are missing a lot on earth.  Radio and
television waves, electricity, spirits, etc.
In the Bible Elijah had a sidekick who was frightened
by a large army in front of them.  Elijah prayed,
“Open his eyes Lord!”  His eyes were opened and he
could see multitudes of angels.  Watch what you are
doing and thinking.  Someone or something is watching
and listening.  You just can’t see or hear them! Boo!

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By Night-Gaunt, December 7, 2009 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment

Well DaveZx3 I have had my experiences with what has been termed “supernatural” or “occult” or “paranormal” which doesn’t prove anything except that there is more out there going on that science will yet allow into their paradigm. There are dimensions, phases of existence, that hold alien life even if it is invisible to us yet press close. And at least one kind comes over and feeds on us. [It has done so to me at least twice in two widely separate locations.  In both cases besides the two small puncture wounds on my arms that itched (attracted my attention to them) and I could see their progress either running away and up the blinds to escape or make sounds I could here but not locate what is making that scratching sound right in front of me in a well lit room—-my room. I also include all those others who report on a variety of strange things that aren’t hoaxes. Charles Fort is a good start but many more recent investigators have found all kinds of high weirdness many times in certain areas that are known for such phenomena going back centuries to the Native Americans who lived there before. Alas this is just anecdotal but it is important. Why I liked the “Ghostbusters” films so much it captured the right tone of of inquiry, what we need to be doing for real. But not so spectacularly in the “busting” part of it.

Are all the religions right, all wrong or just mistaken?

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, December 7, 2009 at 10:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Atheists live on the surface of life only.  They
believe only in what can be seen and heard.  They think
what is going on in their busy, everyday lives and in
the world is so important.  They are not the least
interested in what isn’t going on; they’ve never even
heard of it.  And they are BORING.

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By garth, December 7, 2009 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

Let’s all forsake the attempts at huimilty. Fer Chrissakes!

If Denehy wants to criticize this type of thought as “Deepity” then who are we to say, What gave you the thought for those unsymmetrical evolutional trees?

Are our Gods in Universities?

Stop! Look Around!

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By DaveZx3, December 7, 2009 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt, December 7 at 1:16 am

“I am now curious as to how you DaveZx3 know it was a parable? Did it say so in the beginning and I just forgot? One of the problems with the Bible (many different versions) is that there is a fuzzy line as to what is history, parable or something else or nothing else. True I don’t have inspiration (literally the spirit indwelling via breath within me as you claim to have) in that way. I am an artist of sorts and writer, though an amateur, but I press on none-the-less to learn and grow and progress. Hence I ask questions and answer them”

I have always respected your honesty and intelligence night-gaunt.  I am always sorry that I cannot provide better evidence for what I post.  I am always happy when I run into writing, such as 2Corinthians 3, because it reinforces my own understanding of how I think things work. 

I don’t claim to have anything in me that no one else has.  I think we are all born with the ability to comprehend some truths spiritually much more effectively than naturally.  It may even be inherent, like an advanced form of instinct.

I also think that whatever of your inherent or otherwise acquired qualities, senses, talents, etc, that you exercise or work at diligently, tend to become extremely sharp or capable.  Like the blind man who develops super sensitive hearing.

Everything is not material.  Everything cannot be discerned scientifically.  You cannot see love, though you can see the results of it.  And you cannot see God, though you can see what many discern to be the results of God. 

So, because I have to get going, I have to leave it at that for now and sum up briefly with this:  If you exercise your spirit you see spiritual things more clearly, if you exercise your muscles you get great abs.

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By garth, December 7, 2009 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, I think you are missing something here.

You speak of all your grand edumacation, and your screeds are somewhat entertaining to read, but if that is what edumacation does to the mind, then I wonder how close we are to end of thought.

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By Shenonymous, December 7, 2009 at 9:29 am Link to this comment

Does anything else speak words?  First or last?  Am I missing something here? 
Maybe a simian or two?

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By garth, December 7, 2009 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

“If “human beings” are not the “last word” regarding whether a god exists or not…then who is?”

Now, there’s a thought.

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By christian96, December 7, 2009 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

Approx. 15 minutes ago I heard Pat Robertson on
“The 700 Club” make the following comment about the
healthcare bill currently before congress, “It is
a socialistic grab at a major part of your life.”
Millions of Christians watching his show heard that
comment.  Do you think it influenced their ideas
about the bill?  Pat has associated himself with
God.  Do people watching “The 700 Club” think God
is against this bill?

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By Maezeppa, December 7, 2009 at 6:19 am Link to this comment

If “God” is a symbol for trancendence, great.  Now let us cut out the middle man.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 6, 2009 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

I am now curious as to how you DaveZx3 know it was a parable? Did it say so in the beginning and I just forgot? One of the problems with the Bible (many different versions) is that there is a fuzzy line as to what is history, parable or something else or nothing else. True I don’t have inspiration (literally the spirit indwelling via breath within me as you claim to have) in that way. I am an artist of sorts and writer, though an amateur, but I press on none-the-less to learn and grow and progress. Hence I ask questions and answer them.

The Hebrews made sure that their god was never represented in the plastic arts of sculpture to keep it more mysterious and so that is why there is no iconography of any kind allowed. What the Moslems follow (mostly) and some parts of Christianity too does the same. They are very closely related those three are. So are all religions to the humans who created and need them in order to live—-very close indeed. [One can include all “cults” and quasi-religious groups too including the Mormon and Scientology.] All also profess a connexion to some kind of force for good and another for evil as humans see it. It is universal.

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By Judy Weismonger, December 6, 2009 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If “human beings” are not the “last word” regarding whether a god exists or not…then who is? An imaginary god…for whom there is not one single proof of any such divine thingy’s existence. Really?

Religion is a belief in magic, and magic does not exist, nor does a god, or any supernatural silliness.

This is the 21st Century and its time for the world to act like grown ups and stop wallowing around in magical beliefs, which are no different than some naked guy, jumping around a fire, with a bone in his nose, howling at the moon, declaring that such and such god is going to make it all better. Its never happened, and the countries who are the most highly religious…are also the poorest.

Go to any part of an inner city and you will also find the most churches, sometimes 2-3 on one block! What does this mean? It means that the majority poor people are “believers” instead of “thinkers”...which keeps people poor and stupid. The culture of poverty is caused by belief in a god.

Its now time to grow up and get real, and get down to the real business of solving problems, that cannot be solved by praying and mumbling to an imaginary god.

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By shemp333, December 6, 2009 at 6:16 pm Link to this comment

“Do keep science out of religion.  And keep religion out of science”

As they are incompatable,  this has already been done.  Let’s compare.  Science is based upon indepentently verifiable evidence.. and religion… you have to just believe over the complete lack of evidence.. which is the very definition of faith….  hmmmm…  It really hurts to think…  I just like believing what I was told!  When I was a child!  I never doubted once what my elders ever taught me… I have no mind of my own to comprehend anything that wasn’t spoon fed to me as a child…  I must be a ________ (fill in your own religious superstition as your parents taught you, as to where you what religion you were brought up into)  That feels so much better. My mind is now at rest.  Just as I was taught.

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By Tom Edgar, December 6, 2009 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment

Oh Dave of too much faith.

Why do you answer with Biblical profundities those who would debate Christianity when any religion is not the point?

You pointedly ignore my submission.  My feelings are hurt. A=without….. theism = religious belief.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Show verifiable evidence for any God’s existence and atheism will disappear. This is the scientific way of disproving a theory. So please stop using the side issue of the various religious belief systems.
Without Gods all the religions are fairy stories, so prove your point. What, Where, Who, When.  Or is it as we propound, Gods are highly improbable?  On the lack of evidence damned impossible

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By shemp333, December 6, 2009 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints….  The sinners are much more fun.  Only the Good Die Young!  Billy Joel.

In response to jazzygujal.

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By jazzguyal, December 6, 2009 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment

The only thing I know about God is it makes damn sound so good.

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By shemp333, December 6, 2009 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment

Hey DaveZx3, 

So I see you have read 1 book,  maybe it’s time to pick up a second one in your lifetime?  One that maybe is not PRE - medieval times?

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By shemp333, December 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

Religion is a joke.  Seriously.  Let’s share a laugh.

Dave Allen on Religion.  5 minutes.  Watch it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxo81Ok9Urk

Enjoy!

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By Shenonymous, December 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

Corinthians was written by Paul, a human, book one (in the form of a letter and
not inspired by God) was written about the year 56 AD, to the church of
Corinth, which is a city between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas.  Among other
virtues, it had a great temple in honor of Aphrodite, which was home for more
than one thousand prostitutes and the name Corinth came to mean “to practice
fornication.”  Also the city had many drinking taverns and everything dealing
with a “sinful” and immoral life.  The church/temple had more nonJews than
Jews.  Paul, it is reported competed with the superstitions of one and the
sinfulness of the other.  It was Paul’s efforts to undermine and dissipate Jewish
beliefs and practice calling them full of error.  The Gentiles, nonJews he
attacked their sinfulness (using the temple of Aphrodite as the example!) 

The second letter (Book 2), was more about Paul’s life, pretty much an
autobiography and talks about a number of things, giving, thankfulness,
spiritual gifts, the faithfulness of God, then in 1:10-4:21 he talks about the
divisions within the church, schisms, teaching not to baptize, who are used to
spread the gospel, not boasting, things revealed by the Holy Spirit, and using
spiritual thoughts with spiritual words (which are very fuzzy things indeed). 
Then in 5:1-6:20 he writes about immorality and incest, moral depravity (which
I cannot figure out the difference between that and immorality maybe it is a
matter of degree???), and their punishment, judgment of the world by Christ
and saints, and what for Paul the misogynist had to say about marriage and
celibacy, all kinds of food laws, sacrificing to idols and temples (i.e., Aphrodite),
how to keep women subjugated, eating the body and blood of Christ (which I
always thought of as a weird kind of cannibalism), and on and on a lengthy list
about how one must conduct one’s life, using himself as the model (uh, he is
so perfect?)

Needless to say, Corinthians is only a manual not the word of God but the word
of Paul who wanted to control every second of every minute of human life.  Do
keep science out of religion.  And keep religion out of science.  Jollimore’s
analysis is impeccable and about as rational as any can get.  For any free-
thinker, it is worth a very close reading.  There is no effort to dissuade
believers, but he soundly takes Armstrong to task for some slipshod reasoning.

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By DaveZx3, December 6, 2009 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

By Night-Gaunt, December 6 at 3:46 pm #

“So DaveZx3 it is only Jesus/Joshuah who you follow in the Bible and no other? You do know that none of the Bible was written during the time all these things supposedly happened. How trustworthy would you hold any who had been written down 30-60 years later as being close to the correctness of actually what was said while being there? Why didn’t any of the Apostles write it down or have a scribe(s) be with them do it? Why didn’t Jesus write it himself?  Being such a changling/hybrid of super-flesh and super-spirit wouldn’t that have been the logical course of a super-intellect or am I just showing my weak flabby human brain against the agnostic Cosmic All? Perhaps I expect too much from such a person or maybe too much from the writers who created such a person”

2Corinthians, 3, explains it that it is spiritual discernment which establishes the truth of Jesus Christ, not the words of men.  The words might get you started, but it is the Spirit which must take over for true understanding.

Since science cannot acknowledge spirit, it becomes a real problem for those requiring words for understanding. 

I do not make a habit of quoting Biblical words, but below is an excerpt from 2CR 3, so you don’t have to look it up.   

“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”.

I think these words were written about 25 to 30 AD, not that it is critical to the discussion.

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By Clash, December 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment

Good afternoon, I had some spare time for a little diversion today and I some spare questions I thought I might write them down.

If The God of the fairytale stories exists: Why does he hate women? Why does he hate sex? Is rape, war and conquest what he does best? Why in the end can he not forgive without destroying the Earth? Why does he hate the living so much since he created all for his own satisfaction? Why is stasis so important to IT? Why does He not cherish the living while they are alive? Promising paradise only after death? Just a few questions rolling around this empty head.

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By DaveZx3, December 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt, December 6 at 3:46 pm

“One thing about Jesus that bothered me was concerning the fig tree that he cursed for not bearing fruit out of season. I found that boardering on the psychotic. the venal way he was portrayed as acting and have gotten no good explanation for it. Do you have any DaveZx3? I am certainly interested and you would be the one to give it to me for you would have pondered this deeply”

The fig tree was a metaphor for a larger spiritual truth which is summed up in Matthew 7:16 to 7:21, which is itself a parable. 

The fig tree in question could have been expected to have the “taksh”, small edible fig buds appearing in spring along with the leaves.  Every fertile fig will have some taksh on it, otherwise it will be barren all season. 

And I am glad you brought this up, because it is further evidence for my many, many previous posts stating that the overwhelming majority of people professing to be followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ are in fact not true followers because they do not actually do the things that are taught.  They are like the barren fig tree. 

This is an extremely important fact, because it shows that what one believes or knows is secondary to how he actually behaves.  It is behavior which identifies a follower of anything, not empty words.

I will try to get to your other points after the football game.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 6, 2009 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

Good point Shenonymous about Jesus’ carpentry being holy relics. No mention that I can offhand remember of any of what he did. Unless it is in the Apocrypha that was excluded from the Bible. Interesting reading too including his early years as a scamp who struck people dead for angering him and his mom Mary getting him to resurrect them again!

“Leave it to Jesus”—Here his mother Mary scoulds him.“Now Jesus, I told you before it isn’t nice to kill little Neb if he says something to you that offends you! Now go over and raise him from the dead this minute young man! No supper for you. Wait till you dad gets home.”

Where he spoke from birth, like many other such super-normal creatures like Krishna & Zeus, and displayed fantastic powers over life and materiality such as molded birds from clay and brought them to animated life. Too gaudy for the theologians of 325 AD. Fun stuff though.

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By Shenonymous, December 6, 2009 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

An excellently thought out polemic Night-Gaunt at 3:46 pm.  I’ve always had
similar questions too that since Jesus was considered a rabbi at a very young
age, and preached to the doctors in the temple (Luke 2:466-47); or argued
with the elders (Matthew 8, Luke 7, or even Mark 6:6), is it thought he had
some bible study (Torah that is since the new testament had not yet been
written! that had to wait a couple of decades) so where is even one witness to
that exchange, it was all recalled from secondary and tertiary sources. 
Hmmm. 

I also wondered if Jesus ever spoke even a mumblin’ word to his earthly father
Joseph, who seems to lurk in the background whenever he is allowed to appear
in the bible?  Hmmm whatever happened to all the woodwork supposed
carpenter Jesus made?  In an Ellen Degeneris Dory-like-moment in Finding
Nemo:  Did he make anything?  Wouldn’t they, or should I say, woodn’t
they, have become sacred relics?  Hmmm, do we think there are no written
pages by the wonderman Jesus because he was illiterate, or unable to write? 
Who would have taught him to read, Mamma Mary or Daddy Joe, maybe, but
write?  Was Mary or Joseph writers?  Nothing left that says they were.  Or even
an eyewitness who saw them. Or maybe he was born with a pen in his hand? 
No, I do not remember that item as being found in the cradle.  Hmmmmm

All very interesting questions I’ve had from the tales I’ve heard.  So many
questions of a being supposedly divine not only in spiritual nature, but bodily
as well.  I have lots more questions but this will do for now. It is all right to
have such questions isn’t it?  Oh yes, and that fig tree episode. Oh mannnnn
that poor thing.  That is why there are no fig trees in the world today, it was
God-damned by the chief deity’s right hand, right? No?  Oh. 

Well, I have this to say.  My unbelief kind of proves I am not a Christian
conservative!  Doesn’t it?

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By Night-Gaunt, December 6, 2009 at 11:46 am Link to this comment

So DaveZx3 it is only Jesus/Joshuah who you follow in the Bible and no other? You do know that none of the Bible was written during the time all these things supposedly happened. How trustworthy would you hold any who had been written down 30-60 years later as being close to the correctness of actually what was said while being there? Why didn’t any of the Apostles write it down or have a scribe(s) be with them do it? Why didn’t Jesus write it himself?  Being such a changling/hybrid of super-flesh and super-spirit wouldn’t that have been the logical course of a super-intellect or am I just showing my weak flabby human brain against the agnostic Cosmic All? Perhaps I expect too much from such a person or maybe too much from the writers who created such a person. But then just as the 18 minutes were erased from the Nixon Tapes so was the 18 years erased from Jesus’ life so no biography from him. The obit would but just a few lines in the news paper of today with little else. He was so camouflaged in his society under command of a foreign power—Romans, that he kept a low profile to the end. No divine protection or anything else. He was crucified along with two others who were not thieves but revolutionaries as he was. He was the Gandhi of the time but he was up against a still vigorous empire unlike in 1947 India. Only he failed and the Romans maintained dominion over the country for many years to come.

How different things would have been had he written a book of knowledge and truth that could be read by anyone no matter what language they spoke? That he freed the Israelites from the Romans and they bothered them no more? But then that would have been proof and proof is lacking so that only belief must live and for some of us such faith in the invisible for the attainable promise only after death is a poor substitute for more tangible things. I admit I am in the minority but unlike the more aggressive Atheists I don’t see anything good about trashing others especially since they rule the world. Stupid and bad an foolish. We can believe or move from most any philosophy of life but be must work together as human beings or we shall surely perish as a species. Humanism is the need for humans to help all humans for their own sakes. Mutual Aid is the way not mutual hate.

One thing about Jesus that bothered me was concerning the fig tree that he cursed for not bearing fruit out of season. I found that boardering on the psychotic. the venal way he was portrayed as acting and have gotten no good explanation for it. Do you have any DaveZx3? I am certainly interested and you would be the one to give it to me for you would have pondered this deeply.

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By DaveZx3, December 6, 2009 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

“If I may be so bold as to ask, DaveZ, which god is it you say is THE god, from the over 400 religions in the world, which one is THE god?  Or are
they all (now be very careful before you answer) manifestations of the same god?  That is a trick question”

Not a trick question, an uninformed question. 

Religions made up by men do not define God.  People can make up whatever they want to make up, but that is completely separate from God.

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By Uncle Ernie, December 6, 2009 at 11:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Could I buy a pound of whatever Armstrong is on? Zeus only knows I’ve never been that high, try as I might! As PT Barnum may or may have not said, “There’s one born every minute” and this certainly applies to Armstrong’s readers!

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By Shenonymous, December 6, 2009 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

christian96, with all regard for your sentiments, and perhaps you are right
about there being one god, it would seem to fit a consistent universe, though
for me I have not found any convincing arguments there is anything but chance
and oddities (quirks).  That notwithstanding, as I cannot say I know anything
one way or the other and would not tell you to not believe simply because I do
not. 

But back to the biblical translations:  it is widely known by anyone who knows
anything about translations that translators are notorious for fitting what they
think are scripts into the language they are using whether ambiguities or not
exist.  The translator chooses whatever story or puzzling words they feel,
emotionally, will sound better to their readers.  They also are notorious for
slightly changing details to fit their own beliefs.  Furthermore, religious council
are also known to add in books, and take out books according to the political
will at the moment.  There is no truth to be found in translations only
interpretations of what is perceived to be the truth.  The Judeo/Christian bible
has been translated 27,000 times.  Each translation is considered by historians
as “versions.”  There are, that is, twenty-seven thousand versions of the
Judeo/Christian bible.  Now christian96 which of the 27,000 do you think is
THE Bible?

Yes elisalouisa, I have six of Armstrong’s texts and you characterize her in my
opinion too, exactly correctly.  Selling books are many peoples way of making a
living.  Unfortunately too often the books are or become what is known in the
literary world as pulp.

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By elisalouisa, December 6, 2009 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous is right, “Armstrong’s brilliance is like the moon’s.  Borrowed from
sources yet is not its own.”

If you will pardon me, Karen Armstrong is to to religion what Ann Coulter is to
politics. She always seems to come up with a new twist-outrage that makes her
the darling of marketplace. They both are “Our Ladies of Perpetual Innovation.” This may be understandable and even forgivable in politics but in religion?

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By christian96, December 6, 2009 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous——All Gods are NOT the manifestation
of one God!  There exist too much diversity in the
doctrines taught by all religions.  How, then, can
we tell which God is THE God?  By studying the
intellectual design in the words taught by the
ONE true God.  Is there any God that has been
able to tell the end from the beginning? Yes! The
God of Torah, prophets, psalms, and New Testament
in the Christian Bible.  Let me hear you use your
lowly human intellect to disprove the words of God
in the Christian Bible?  Where did the other Gods
come from?  If you have studied the Christian
Bible then you know the answer to that question.
They came from Satan, who tried to get the Son of
God to fall down and worship him.  Satan has always wanted to be God and to be worshipped but his day
is about to come to an end.

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By Shenonymous, December 6, 2009 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

I love drippy religious movies!  Oh my gawd, Charlton Heston, that ultra-right-
wing nut hunk was Moses!  And El Cid!  I will never forget him throwing down
those clay tablets with the 10 commandments on them that god had written,
because I don’t think Heston, uh Moses, knew how to write in Hebrew, well to
continue, how he aimed and hit the golden calf Baal, and the explosion, WOW!  I
can only imagine when that really happened, except it didn’t.  I have lots of
religious books including holy books of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, Hindus,
and Zoroastrians, I would not trade on E-Bay.  Course I have a whole library of
Nietzsche, you know he claimed God was Dead!  Except that means God was alive
once?  Curious.  And I and my fellow atheists would say, the non-militant atheists
that is, since that is the crowd I run with, Existence itself is a quirk, not seems to
be.  I am not a heretic, since I never subscribed to any religion to which I would be
considered a heretic. So no burning here…okay?

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By Anarcissie, December 6, 2009 at 9:00 am Link to this comment

God, or rather God-talk, is not without its uses.  Look at the entertainment value, witnessed by the length of this discussion.  There’s also the literary character, who can be put through all kinds of wringers.  The other day I went out and bought R. Crumb’s Genesis, which is his very literal rendering of the Biblical book of that name, including the sex and violence, of which there is plenty as you will recall if you ever actually read it.  It’s pretty good if you like Crumb’s style, which I do.  He did it straight—it’s not supposed to be at all satirical, ironic, propagandistic, or even reverent.  God, for instance, is rather like the character of the same name in Michelangelo’s paintings, an old man with a long white beard and long hair, but quite vigorous, with remarkable powers and a rather quirky, if not to say cranky, personality.  And why no?  Existence itself seems to be rather a quirk.

Without God, or rather, “God”, we would not have this book—or Quo Vadis or the St. Matthew Passion, for that matter.  Would we not then be the poorer?  But maybe you don’t like cartoons, soppy historical novels made into movies, or choral music….

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By Anarcissie, December 6, 2009 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

God, or rather God-talk, is not without its uses.  Look at the entertainment value, witnessed by the length of this discussion.  There’s also the literary character, who can be put through all kinds of wringers.  The other day I went out and bought R. Crumb’s Genesis, which is his very literal rendering of the Biblical book of that name, including the sex and violence, of which there is plenty as you will recall if you ever actually read it.  It’s pretty good if you like Crumb’s style, which I do.  He did it straight—it’s not supposed to be at all satirical, ironic, propagandistic, or even reverent.  God, for instance, is rather like the character of the same name in Michelangelo’s paintings, an old man with a long white beard and long hair, but quite vigorous, with remarkable powers and a rather quirky, if not to say cranky, personality.  And why not?  Existence itself seems to be rather a quirk.

Without God, or rather, “God”, we would not have this book—or Quo Vadis or the St. Matthew Passion, for that matter.  Would we not then be the poorer?  But maybe you don’t like cartoons, soppy historical novels made into movies, or choral music….

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By Shenonymous, December 6, 2009 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

Good Sunday morning all.

There are so many commenters already!  Well Shepotamus can’t resist one of
Her favorite topics.  It will take at least two posts.  Bear with me as I have as
much right as you all and need to catch up.

It is certainly perceived, “hence the need for this book.”  And George Carlin did
rightly, by my calculation, say it all!

“Jefferson stated that he didn’t care whether or not a man believed in one
God,twenty gods or no gods because it neither picked his pocket nor broke his
leg.” – Maybe, unless one has faith that a god or twenty gods does. 
Wait…could we ascribe such criminality to a god(s)?  The wrathful ones but not
the benevolent ones, right? 

If as Armstrong defines it, apophaticism is the claim “that God is ineffable and
that [all] talk about God literally has no content at all. Since God
transcends all human attempts at understanding, humans cannot think or say
anything meaningful about God:  “The idea of God is merely a symbol of
indescribable transcendence and has been interpreted in many different ways
over the centuries,” then nothing coherent can be said.  No interpretation has
any basis.  Anyone attempting to speak about it, must zip it up and desist!

DaveZx3, with all due respect for your religiousity (as you can see I have my
head dutifully bowed), if you don’t want to listen to intellectuals discussing
God, then does that mean you would listen to emotional lowbrows? What if one
sat silently with out their mouths speaking, with a shut up mouth, and not
think they have already figured everything out, yet no god gives them a word,
then what?  If I may be so bold as to ask, DaveZ, which god is it you say is THE
god, from the over 400 religions in the world, which one is THE god?  Or are
they all (now be very careful before you answer) manifestations of the same
god?  That is a trick question.

When you say ‘man’ does not have a clue, does that mean all men?

Dhamma3, I learned buddhism is not a religion.  Some people however try to
make it one, and those who criticize it do make it one, but it is not one.  It is a
practice of first attempting to see reality, then seeing it if one is tenacious ,
remove the veils from one’s eyes and stop trying.  I much prefer the incarnation
of Ho Tai to use as a model.  Seems to me, if the god of Abraham is tarnished,
it is because the minds of the ones who invented him are tarnished.

omygodnotagain, again it seems to me that getting out of bed in the morning
is an act of faith, a belief that the floor you imagine to be there really is there. 
Moralities, in the plural, are created by societies that they may live orderly and
respectful lives.  It was a step up from primitive savage anarchy.  Rules of
ethics seems to work when everyone knows what they are and interprets them
similarly.  Your point about knowledge is an ancient one, nevertheless, how do
you know you are even here?  Would you give us some proof?

Armstrong’s brilliance is like the moon’s.  Borrowed from sources yet is not its
own.

Pre-Socratics, hmmmm, yup yup yup yup yup.  Somewhat anachronistic but
some seeds of wisdom there.

I believe that you must believe you breath in order to take another breath.
Prove me wrong.

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By Shenonymous, December 6, 2009 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

Howard Mandel, you sit so much higher than the rest of us.  “Phew! The only
problem with that is the magical thinking that it instills in the believer leaves
them open to other magical thinking concepts that make them easy prey for
those who would manipulate them for political power.  So, what exactly do you
propose to do with all the believers?  Are you going for Mass murder?  Yes, pun
intended.

With all due respect to John Lennon, and i think he was next to a god, I guess I
do want to say when I get a paper cut, oh god, dammit another one.  Does
each pain mean a separate god since pains are various and different and
happen at different times.  I’m not sure how the temporal thing works with this
theory. Oh by the way, what brand of briefcase does god walk around with?  Do
they sell them at Office Depot?

Oh, poor god, if humans were made in that image!  How ugly. Are you sure it
wasn’t the other way around?

Why I think we do not talk enough about god.  Good grief, just think about
having a hamburger at Burger King and no one is talking about God?  Or riding
the subway, oh oh can’t use that one, there are always godtalkers there. 
Hmmm how about when jackhammering the street to get to the gas line that is
leaking and about to blow up the elementary school right before recess across
the street, yup, I think a lot of calling on god and damning happens, but not
and serious discussion.  Gee whiz.

Now as usual Anarcissie says the truth.  At least I think so.

I see the Pontificators have egressed from the woodwork enmass.

Maybe you are right WriterOnTheStorm, but it is tasty enough for the denizens
of Truthdig to chew on.

Where are these free wild Natives running around?  Free?  Oh yeah.

Mavis wants to end humanity with one blow!  How many notches on her belt
will that be?  Over 6 billion?  Oh boy.  Isn’t anybody exempt?

shemp333 is that red meat?

Graham ASH-PORTER, do you have a method of winnowing out “false religions?

Seems as long as there are believers and non-believers, ink will be spilled then
blood.

Since everything is absurd, John Ellis, especially us Truthdiggers, do you really
think you gave a case for Reason for Life?

The insanity of the evangelical Dominionists (is that the name they go by?)
hmmm, I haven’t seen that in the news, well anyway, if they do exist, and they
do what you claim, Night-Gaunt, then they ought to be condemned! Maybe
even given AIDS?  No, just joking.  I know, a really bad joke.

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By Tom Edgar, December 6, 2009 at 6:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Will you Christian apologists desist. Atheism is only denying a God’s existence.  Any God. Christianity isn’t the only superstitious belief.

So provide evidence for a God. Not Biblical, Koranic, nor Talmudic references. Jut plain old replicable proof.

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