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Author Topic: God; is he or isn't he?
PanHeraclitean
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That would indeed be the reason why I would go "native" so to speak. I am a very empathic person. I help people too much so say. If it amounts to naught, I would either go mad or have to isolate myself and say that it doesn't matter what I do because my own meaning is the only meaning that makes a difference in my life.

That type of person is what I tried to style myself after when I first came to Ornery back in October.

I would think it would be a cold, stale, sterilized type of life that has moments of joy but no lasting encounters with joy. Does that make sense?

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TinMan
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quote:
How do you live with the idea that some kid is going to die today from his parents' abuse, and that's all he is every going to experience out of life?
Because the only other option is death, whatever that may be?

Pan,

Now that we have gotten to the core of the issue, here is my take on the meaning of my existence.

Unlike Tom, I believe I have direct impact on others. Humans, like insects, are social creatures, and what they do, beyond mere procreation, impacts the survival of the species in the future. I am indeed part of a greater whole, that whole being the human race, and various subsegments therein. This includes the human race of past and in the future, as well as present.

It behooves me to act in behaviors that are most beneficial to the advancement of the human race. This is the definition of "good" in terms of human behavior.

The meaning in my life is to make us all better, even though I will not be here to see us improve.

To put it in a completely sappy manner. The meaning in my life is my children. The meaning in my life is your children. The meaning in my life is all our children.

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guinevererobin
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quote:
quote:
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How do you live with the idea that some kid is going to die today from his parents' abuse, and that's all he is every going to experience out of life?
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Because the only other option is death, whatever that may be?

You were quite succint here, which is an admirable trait, but unfortunately left me lost. Could you please clarify what you meant?
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KnightEnder
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quote:
I don't know how you could keep from going out of your mind trying to change the world. How do you live with the idea that some kid is going to die today from his parents' abuse, and that's all he is every going to experience out of life?
Depression, drugs.

My last two posts while seeming flipant, are not. Personally I think being an atheist sucks, but I am unable to be anything else.

KE

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PanHeraclitean
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That seems a rather fatalistic POV KE. Why?
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MattP
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Why does it suck or why is he unable to be anything else?
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Everard
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I don't think being an atheist sucks. I think that accepting what you believe to be true gives you the ability to really live.
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0Megabyte
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guinevererobin, you asked what he meant as for "Because the only other option is death, whatever that may be?"

He said that because the question was "how do you LIVE with it"?

[Big Grin]

You either live with it or you don't. And not living with it, in this case where you cannot change it, requires, you know, not living.

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0Megabyte
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Oh, and KE, read Anthony De Mello.

He may be a Jesuit, but his stuff works equally well for a non-Christian. (and the Church, in its infinite glory [sarcasm] warned that it's a book fit only for nonbelievers anyway, and that I, a believing Catholic, should not read it. Too late! [Big Grin] )

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
I know that the strength comes from the same place. But what is the reason behind that strength?

I know that I could just persevere through life but I don't see what hope I would have. The things which I consider important would hold no conclusive meaning outside myself. Truth may be something that exists but it becomes something that I would see as irrelevant. Why care about the truth of the "natural" world when your intersection with that truth is not and will not ever be complete?

Personally I need some time out to rationalize the fundamental pointlessness of existence or I won't be able to get out of bed everyday.

Richard Dawkins wrote an entire book on this subject, Unweaving the Rainbow. I think the preface of the book is very relevant here:

quote:


A foreign publisher of my first book confessed that he could not sleep for three nights after reading it, so troubled was he by what he saw as its cold, bleak message. Others have asked me how I can get up in the mornings. A teacher from a distant country wrote to me reproachfully that a pupil had come to him in tears after reading the same book, because it had persuaded her that life was empty and purposeless. He advised her not to show the book to any of her friends, for fear of contaminating them with the same nihilistic pessimism. Similar accusations of barren desolation, of promoting an arid and joyless message, are frequently flung at science in general, and it is easy for scientists to play up to them. My colleague Peter Atkins begins his book The Second Law (1984) in this vein:
quote:
We are the children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root, there is only corruptions, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.
But such very proper purging of saccharine false purpose; such laudable tough-mindedness in the debunking of cosmic sentimentality must not be confused with a loss of personal hope. Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life's hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don't; not if we are sane. Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer, warmer, human ambitions and perceptions. To accuse science of robbing life of the warmth that makes it worth living is so preposterously mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my own feelings and those of most working scientists, I am almost driven to the despair of which I am wrongly suspected. But in this book I shall try a more positive response, appealing to the sense of wonder in science because it is so sad to think what these complainers and naysayers are missing. This is one of the things that the late Carl Sagan did so well, and for which he is sadly missed. The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that makes life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living it is finite.
Personally, looking at the amazing pictures of the cosmos (those are all galaxies) kindles in me a greater sense of religious wonder than I ever found amongst the pages of the Bible as a child, when I still wholeheartedly believed.

What matters is friends, and family, and your community. Figuring out what defines you as a person and doing that to the greatest extent that you can. The ancient writings of men don't inform these things, even when we think they do. And realizing this, to me, was the most liberating experience of my life.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
It seems pretty obvious that you have impacted, at the very least, them no?
Not directly. I've done things that they've let affect them.
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PanHeraclitean
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TomD, I don't think we have yet a way to prevent pregnancy definitely if all parts are there if you are doing the deed. And I think people like Satre might disagree with you about somebody letting themselves come into existence.

Adam, I'll have to look into Dawkins.

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DonaldD
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arguably, the sperm has to really want to win the race; whether a sperm has an internal context...
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PanHeraclitean
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MattP, I wouldn't mind hearing KE's answer to either question.
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PanHeraclitean
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I know this is a little off topic, but I just thought TomD begged the question. If you cannot directly impact another person than how can you prohibit hurting another person, TomD? This comes from an earilier discussion in which you said the greatest harm you can do to someone is to forcibly change their internal context. It seems to be superfluous if you can't really impact them.
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KnightEnder
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It sucks because of all the reasons you mentioned, and I'm unable to believe in God's existence, because try as I might; I can't believe it. I don't think true belief is something you can choose to do.

But I envy you your faith.

KE

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PanHeraclitean
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True belief is a choice. If is isn't it isn't belief. It might be presumption or complacency but it is not belief.

What god don't you believe in? I might not believe in him either. I know you have brought up suffering. Suffering is a consequence of freedom. If a thing was made to be a certain way and acts differently it suffers from wear and tear, malfunction and the like. This is why I don't find the problem of suffering an issue of contention myself.

On another not if you aren't free how can you love. Can a slave love his capture?

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MattP
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There were times in my life where I wanted to believe in a spirituality that was compatible with my contemporaries. If it was a matter of choice, I would have chosen differently during those times.

Can you choose to believe that the midday sky is pink?

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KnightEnder
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Thanks Matt. I agree. Belief is something you do or don't do in your own mind. Not something you can choose. Anything else is just lipservice.

KE

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0Megabyte
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"Not directly. I've done things that they've let affect them. "

I'm pretty sure, Pan, what Tom is saying here is this:

When someone tells you to buzz off, whether it bothers you or not is not based on the message, but on your own feelings. It's your perception of those things.

IF I was told to buzz off, I might decide not to care, or I might get angry, but either way, the way I react to it, the way I feel, is based within myself, not on the words given towards me themselves.

It doesn't make me angry because it's objectively bad. It makes me angry because I FEEL it's bad. If I didn't care, it wouldn't bother me.

Isn't that kinda what you're meaning, Tom?

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Everard
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"Not directly. I've done things that they've let affect them."

Really Tom? You've never physically intruded on someone else?

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TomDavidson
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quote:
If you cannot directly impact another person than how can you prohibit hurting another person, TomD? This comes from an earilier discussion in which you said the greatest harm you can do to someone is to forcibly change their internal context.
Remember, I said at that time that there were multiple contexts. The simplest model I work with identifies three (although I believe there are many more): the physical, which is the "real" world of atoms and electrical impulses, on which everything runs and depends; the internal, which is a completely and literally imaginary context assembled by individual sentiences (which themselves only exist in the internal context), and the perceptive context, which is -- broadly -- the interface between the two. The perceptive context is the level at which things are felt and perceived; the internal context is the level at which those perceptions are recognized and interpreted.

What I said at the time was that it's possible the only harm you can realistically do to someone is to forcibly change their perceptive context. (It's conceivable that you could define moral harms in physical and internal contexts, as well, but the interesting thing about those harms is that, by definition, they could not be perceived by the individual being harmed. "Harm" in that case would be a value recognized by society based on a shared assertion that the integrity of someone's internal context is inherently special, or that someone's physical context has the inherent right to continued functioning. There are certain problems with both these assertions which are obvious to the casual philosopher.)

So, yeah, I can cause things to happen in the physical context which are unwillingly perceived by someone else's perceptive context. In fact, merely walking past someone "forces" them to observe me.

By this logic, any interaction with the physical world constitutes "harm," for a given definition of "harm." Consequently, we as social, sentient beings have developed a few shared values, the most obvious one being: we all have the right to share existence in the physical context, even if it means that we are perceived by others who do not wish to perceive us. This is clearly not a universal value, but it's close enough to universal that we manage to go up to ten or even fifteen minutes at a stretch without killing somebody.

quote:
You've never physically intruded on someone else?
The "person" is a creation of the internal context. We speak of an "individual" or a "human being" as a single physical entity, but in reality it's a conglomeration of living cells, parasitic creatures, and constantly competing organisms; while there's a physical limit to the "human," the consciousness we're calling "Tom" or "Everard" is simply software running on that specific hardware.

An example: I punch you, completely out of the blue.

Obviously, our two physical contexts meet first. The physical context has a direct connection to the perceptive context, which reports sensations like "impact" and "pain" and "the sight of Tom's fist moving at me." It's also worth noting that we're built for processing speed and not necessarily system integrity, so there are direct connections between the perceptive and the physical contexts which bypass the internal context altogether; even before impact, testosterone and other chemicals are pumping through your body, and these chemicals produce not only sensations but change the very pathways on which your assembled sense of self -- your internal context -- relies. After a millisecond, you're no longer completely a sentient being; although a part of you is still processing the impact, concluding "Tom hit me" and then wondering, in rapid succession, "why did he do that?" and "what should I do about it," other parts of you are now running on autopilot. You're more likely to react with hostility, for example. You're now more acutely aware of your surroundings, assuming I didn't damage your physical context sufficiently to stun your sensory organs. And you're going to -- completely subconsiously -- filter everything you perceive for the next few seconds through a presumption of physical danger, which may cause you to react in a less than ideal way.

So what is the "you" in that scenario? Whom did I punch? If you punch me back, who chose to do it?

The idea of a single, conscious self is a necessary fiction, and it's a fiction that we're programmed to tell to our fictitious selves.

[ May 16, 2007, 10:31 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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PanHeraclitean
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Choosing is something you do in your mind. I'm not saying that you should choose to believe in something antithetical to you as a person. I think that you choose to believe or ascent to things based on there relation to you. Personally I have a belief about the choirs of angels but I don't consider it important to my life at all and only speculate on it.

If you don't think that spirituality is important or will positively affect your life you have no choice about it. But you do have a choice to explore more about that thing if that exploration may produce a significant enough increase in value to your life.

I don't think that atheism per se will produce value for me but as so many have pointed out atheism is not usually the main concern for most atheists. This is what I am interested in.

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kelcimer
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guinevererobin
quote:
How do you live with the idea that some kid is going to die today from his parents' abuse, and that's all he is every going to experience out of life?
From everything I have observed about the universe I can only conclude that the universe's opinion/attitude is "Do as you will. Period." Free will and all that. Unfortunately that means that those parents have to have the opportunity to do horrible things. Of course they also have to live with the consequences of it, such as some better example of humanity taking a baseball bat to their knees.

I believe freewill is paramount. In order to be free to choose to be as good a person as I can be, I must also be free to choose to be as awful of a person as I can be. That parent has the same right to freewill. However, they should not be surprised when other people around them express their own freewill in busting out their knees.

That brushes up alongside personal responsibility. Once a person knows something they are responisble for that knowledge. Within my own life if I see wrong and can do something about it, I do. By the same token I cannot be responsible for what happens that I'm unaware of so I don't agonize too much over bad things happening.

PanHeraclitean
quote:
What's the point then?
Decide who you want to be then be it with all your heart, come what may.

I consider myself a philosopher. My position on the god questions is by default agnostic, but I myself am not an agnostic. I'll give your original question my best shot.

For me the question was "what is the nature of god?" Before I can believe or not believe in something I would first need to know what it is. I have and am aware of many versions and interpretations that fall under the heading "god". I have considered myself under all those models and have concluded that I would still be me and that I will be me come what may. Knowing the nature or lack thereof of god would not influence who I am. The god questions are just irrelevent for me.

I don't check the forum as often as I did so in case I don't get back here with good time I'll refer you to this thread in the archives:
http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=16;t=000080;p=0&r=nfx

It doesn't really get going till about halfway down the first page, but it gets to a lot of my beliefs about myself, the meaning of life, and that god fellow. You might find it interesting.

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