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Author Topic: Wouldn't it be Great if there really was a God?
KTB
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OH!
That's awesome! [Smile]

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Kent
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It all boils down to prophecy coming to pass to prove the existence of God, doesn't it? Knowing that future events will play out because some god is controlling or influencing the outcome is the only way to know for sure (outside of a personal relationship). Aside from a prophecy to predict it, anyone can call any supernatural manifestation a freak occurance. It is the predictive power of science that gives it its authority.
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Tom Curtis
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Mormegil:

quote:
Tom Curtis, I don't agree that the catholic church teaches infant damnation, however, if they did, I would be fine with calling it a false religion. (Of course, I call it a false religion for other reasons anyway.) Your problem is defining the catholic church as "christianity."

Your argument went like this:

Premise (Mormegil): any religion teaching infant damnation is false.

Premise (Tom Curtis): christianity teaches infant damnation.

Conclusion: christianity is a false religion.

Your syllogism is valid but unsound, because your premise is false (however, I stand by mine). Even if you could show that there is some religion calling itself christianity that teaches infant damnation, you still have to prove that it *is* christianity.

Since I use the Bible to define what christianity is, any religion that teaches contrary to the Bible is, by definition, not christianity.

To convince me, you'd have to show that the Bible itself teaches infant damnation.

Mormegil, whenever a conversation is turned into a syllogism, it is always misrepresented.

The conversation went like this:

You suggested that children who die young go to an eternity of bliss, so that their immediate suffering is of no overerall import.

I pointed out that not all Christians believe that, and that on the contrary many Christians have believed that unbaptised children will suffer eternal torment.

You suggested that anyone who believed that was not really a Christian.

I pointed out that those who believe that have a foundation in scripture for that belief, even if it is, like all Christian doctrines, subject to interpretation.

There is no syllogism here, there is just example and counter example. My purpose in the counter examples is to show that your doctrine of eternal bliss for all children dying young is speculation. Of course, you can show me otherwise by showing were the Bible clearly teaches that infants who die young go to eternal bliss. Absent that, you have errected on your own authority a new doctrine to be definitive of who and who is not a Christian.

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KTB
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In answer to the prayer part of your post, why pray at all if you don't think you're talking to anyone? And why would God answer something that's not even directed at him?
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MattP
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quote:
In answer to the prayer part of your post, why pray at all if you don't think you're talking to anyone?
Most people who pray believe he's there, others pray because they hope he's there.Some pray because they wonder if he's there, but probably have a preference one way or the other which will influence the likelihood that they'll peceive an answer.

quote:
And why would God answer something that's not even directed at him?
I'm not sure I understand this question. Could you rephrase?
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KTB
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If someone asked a question or made a request, but it wasn't directed to you, you wouldn't answer. I'm just saying that I can understand if God does the same.
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MattP
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Here's a neat list of cognitive biases: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

For fun, go through the list and count up how many you think you've been subject to. If no more than a handful, then you probably have "bias blind spot." [Smile]

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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by KTB:
If someone asked a question or made a request, but it wasn't directed to you, you wouldn't answer. I'm just saying that I can understand if God does the same.

You need to give me some context here. Did someone assert otherwise?
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KTB
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Ah, sorry. Not very good at this, am I? Thanks for being patient!

No, not really. It seemed, though, that some were pointing to a lack of answers to prayer as proof of a lack of God. If a tree falls...

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MattP
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That would be a silly. As the saying goes absense of proof is not proof of absense. My point is the opposite; that many people cite answers to prayer as proof of God, yet I find such assertions unconvincing given the creative powers of the human mind.
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KTB
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Very true! I totally agree! That's why my original post said, "No amount of human reasoning or personal anecdotes could ever explain how or why God works the way he does, or that he even exists." You'll have to ask him yourself. [Smile]
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Richard Dey
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Kent:

Yes! And I do comprehend your Dey-atribe ( [Wink] ). I understand and repect that way of dissecting an enigma. Despite my roadhouse bangs on the bar, I am no Alexander slashing Gordion knots with a sword. I just have the bad habit of kicking open saloon doors, guns drawn, instead of knocking politely and begging for admittance.

Prediction can indeed demonstrate truth even if it cannot prove it. Can a voice be carried on a metallic wire? I don't know, say something on it and I'll agree or disagree.

But, as you guess, I am opposed to actions based on presumptions that have not been demonstrated, and most certainly to actions based on presumptions rather than on predictable results.

Man has come a long way by accident, lots of fatal accidents, but he is nowhere near 'the promised land' and off in quite the wrong direction IMHO.

But to a Yankee, if not a Utahan, predicting weather is one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind -- and worthy of our money on the space race. If there is more to be heard from the heavens, I am all ears.

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Mormegil
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Richard Dey: that really isn't ringing a bell.

quote:
You suggested that children who die young go to an eternity of bliss, so that their immediate suffering is of no overerall import.
I did no such thing. I did say the first part, but not the second.

quote:
I pointed out that not all Christians believe that, and that on the contrary many Christians have believed that unbaptised children will suffer eternal torment.

You suggested that anyone who believed that was not really a Christian.

That's true, I surely did say that.

quote:
I pointed out that those who believe that have a foundation in scripture for that belief, even if it is, like all Christian doctrines, subject to interpretation.
Okay, let's suppose that I claim that The Flintstones promotes homosexuality because it says in the theme song, "we'll have a gay old time!" Would you agree that that line in the song is subject to interpretation?

Me, I'd say the person who wrote it had an intended meaning, and furthermore that the intended meaning is also knowable and understandable to the target audience, and that the pro-homosexuality interpretation is just plain wrong.

quote:
Of course, you can show me otherwise by showing were the Bible clearly teaches that infants who die young go to eternal bliss.
How come other people get to assert things all the time ("there is no God") but when I assert something ("the Bible doesn't teach infant damnation") I have to prove it? ;-)

First, realize that God sends people to hell for sinning ("the wages of sin are death"). Second, a baby is incapable of committing a sin (by the definition of sin). Therefore God does not send babies to hell.

In addition, I think I already mentioned King David and his son. A quick google yields this so I don't have to actually compose it myself:

quote:
Does the Bible teach that babies go to hell when they die? In order to answer this question, we must find a biblical example in which an infant died, and in which his or her eternal destination is recorded. To do such is not difficult. In 2 Samuel 12, King David’s newborn son fell terminally ill. After seven days, the child died. In verses 22 and 23, the Bible records that David said: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” It is clear that David’s dead infant son would never return to this Earth, but David also said that one day, he would go to be with his son. Through inspiration, David documented that his own eternal destination was going to be “in the house of the Lord” (Psalm 23:6). Therefore, we can conclude that “the house of the Lord” would be the eternal destination of his infant son to whom David would one day go. King David was looking forward to the day when he would be able to meet his son in heaven. Absolutely nothing in this context gives any hint that the dead infant son’s soul would go to hell. " target="_blank">http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2255[/quote]
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KnightEnder
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Thank you Winkey. That made me feel great. I will reciprocate with what I do that is prayer by a different name. Please say a prayer for Pete and his son too. Thankfully, through a miracle or an event by any other name that fits the same bill I was spared the endless torture that he goes through every day.

Thank you all for your kind words about my son.

Welcome John Brown and KTB.

Too much to read and think about to respond now, but I will. Thanks.

KE

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Dagonee
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quote:
Dagonee, the idea that unbaptised children, though not saved will not suffer either is (or was) controversial within the Catholic Church.
Of course it was controversial. Which means that some people thought it was true, and some didn't. And this goes back to before Constantine. SO your original statement:

quote:
Well, according to the Catholics, if they have not been baptised in a church with Apostolic Succession, they go straight to hell. I guess that would make the suffering of this world just moments duration as well.
is basically wrong. At the most basic level, you'd need to change "the" to "some." Some Catholics thought what you said, some did not, and the Church specifically avoided taking a stance on the matter. Beyond the overreach inherent in your statement is the fact that, of those who thought unbaptized infants received punishment, many (possibly most) thought that the level of punishment was so low that the existence was still a desirable one, not a tormented one.

quote:
there are those who offer the prospect of eternal suffering, or eternal boredom (limbo) instead.
Yes, it's true, there are some who offer the prospect of eternal boredom. But the Catholic tradition of Limbo is far more dominated by the idea of Limbo being a perfect state of natural happiness, as opposed to the perfect state of supernatural happiness of the beatific vision, not boredom.

You've managed to express an extensive knowledge of views thought to be the position of the Church that are, at best, a position held by a subset of its members and thinkers.

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canadian
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He could clear it up by saying hello to everyone and doing the talk show circuit, but noooo.

Nothin' like a deadbeat dad.

"Sure, I love you."

"But you're never around!"

"Dude, I'm totally with you in spirit. Anything good that happens, that was me. Anything bad...well, let's just say I have mysterious ways, but it's all part of my big plan. One day, when you're older, you can come live with me. Boy, I gotta tell you, it's heaven out here. Oh, say hi to your mom."

"Why am I talking to myself?"

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winkey151
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I feel left out. No one ever greeted me with that phrase. [Crying]
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Tom Curtis
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Dagonee:

quote:
Of course it was controversial. Which means that some people thought it was true, and some didn't. And this goes back to before Constantine. SO your original statement:


quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Well, according to the Catholics, if they have not been baptised in a church with Apostolic Succession, they go straight to hell. I guess that would make the suffering of this world just moments duration as well.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

is basically wrong. At the most basic level, you'd need to change "the" to "some." Some Catholics thought what you said, some did not, and the Church specifically avoided taking a stance on the matter. Beyond the overreach inherent in your statement is the fact that, of those who thought unbaptized infants received punishment, many (possibly most) thought that the level of punishment was so low that the existence was still a desirable one, not a tormented one.

Actually, my statement was basically correct as Limbo, the place in which unbaptized, dead infants supposedly reside is a part of hell.

I was not correct in assuming that therefore it was a place of torment in Catholic thinking, a point I have already acknowledged so I don't know why you are belabouring it. On closer examination, I do find that some Catholic scholars claim limbo will be a place of hapiness, but they do so on the basis of no authority other than their desire, and they do so in contradiction to at least two councils which supposedly are authorative.

My initial point remains in tact in all this. Mormegil offered the supposed eternal bliss of infants dying young as a solace for the suffering of the young in this world. That solace, however, evaporates when we find that the alternative view of eternal suffering is equally advocated by Christians - and that neither side has any substantive reason for their belief.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Actually, my statement was basically correct as Limbo, the place in which unbaptized, dead infants supposedly reside is a part of hell.
1.) Limbo has never been taught as an official teaching, only as one possibility not inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

2.) The theorizing on Limbo does not universally assign it as part of Hell. The majority opinion pre-Augustine was that it wasn't, and that's the majority opinion today amongst those who still hold the belief.

As I said, change "the Catholics" to "some Catholics" and you might be correct, and this applies to basically every statement you've made about Catholics in general.

quote:
I was not correct in assuming that therefore it was a place of torment in Catholic thinking, a point I have already acknowledged so I don't know why you are belabouring it.
Because you're still making incorrect statements about Catholic teaching, and have not discussed the specific refutations of those errors, and because I'd like to make accurate information available to those who care.

quote:
and they do so in contradiction to at least two councils which supposedly are authorative.
No, they don't, assuming you're relying on the quotes you pasted above. Neither quote says limbo is unhappy, merely that those there receive the ultimate happiness.

quote:
My initial point remains in tact in all this. Mormegil offered the supposed eternal bliss of infants dying young as a solace for the suffering of the young in this world. That solace, however, evaporates when we find that the alternative view of eternal suffering is equally advocated by Christians - and that neither side has any substantive reason for their belief.
1.) You haven't come close demonstrating "equal advocacy."

2.) If your point comes down to "no one can prove their religious beliefs" then it's not exactly earth-shattering, and it could be made without making inaccurate statements about Catholic doctrine.

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Richard Dey
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Mormegil:

I didn't say anything of those things about infants or whatever that argument is; that's all over my head. Though I do have one question, per infra.

I was referring to some time in the past when we were discussing the issue of how god could allow this, that, and the other thing that -- were we gods -- we would never allow: famine, illness, and the food chain. I said I didn't think god was a 'nice' god, and you were quick to agree that his job wasn't to be 'nice' (or some such word).

Well, let's let it slip, and leave it to the archivist (who was on vacation last week and may be still).

Well, here I am below. I thought we were all 'born' with 'original sin'. That doesn't mean that we're 'conceived' with 'original sin'? It sounds petty, but isn't that critical in relation to abortion?

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Tom Curtis
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Well, Dagonee, those who are interested should know that the Third Council of Carthage stated that unbaptized children will suffer:

quote:
But even before the outbreak of the Pelagian controversy St. Augustine had already abandoned the lenient traditional view, and in the course of the controversy he himself condemned, and persuaded the Council of Carthage (418) to condemn, the substantially identical Pelagian teaching affirming the existence of "an intermediate place, or of any place anywhere at all (ullus alicubi locus), in which children who pass out of this life unbaptized live in happiness" (Denzinger 102). This means that St. Augustine and the African Fathers believed that unbaptized infants share in the common positive misery of the damned, and the very most that St. Augustine concedes is that their punishment is the mildest of all, so mild indeed that one may not say that for them non-existence would be preferable to existence in such a state (De peccat. meritis I, xxi; Contra Jul. V, 44; etc.).
The ought also to know that the Council of Florence taught that the souls of all people guilty of original sin (which includes baptized infants) are sent immediately to hell:

quote:
Moreover, there was the teaching of the Council of Florence, that "the souls of those dying in actual mortal sin or in original sin alone go down at once (mox) into Hell, to be punished, however, with widely different penalties."
They ought also to know that the universal teaching of the Catholic church from the fifth century (Augustine) to the thirteenth century (when it was repudiated by Aquinas) was that the souls of children who died without baptism did in fact suffer.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09256a.htm

My point, moreover, was not that nobody can prove their religious beliefs; but that even if you accept the standard authorities of religious knowledge, there is still no basis from them to establish the answer one way or the other. Even if you accept the Bible as inspired, the teachings of universal church councils as authoritative, or the infallibility of the Pope ex cathedra, you still have no basis to descide one way or the other as to whether unbaptised babies will suffer in eternity, or not.

So whatever solace religious faith may give, Mormegil's claim should give less as it is based on even more uncertain authority.

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canadian
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quote:
Originally posted by winkey151:
I feel left out. No one ever greeted me with that phrase. [Crying]

Welcome to Ornery, winkey. You are wrong.

Time is transmutable.

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winkey151
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Thanks Canadian... I feel better now, even though you are the one who is wrong. [Smile]
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canadian
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Nevr.
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winkey151
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Never say Never.... it will come back to bite you someday.
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canadian
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I didn't.

[Wink]

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winkey151
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You tricky Canadians.... [Eek!]
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pickled shuttlecock
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That was scripted. It had to be.

And you're BOTH wrong. So there.

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gruevy
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This is a stupid argument to be having with an emotional parent, for obvious reasons.

However, I will submit that it is a sort of silly condemnation of God to say that He should have made the world completely without suffering. Who are you, pathetic mortal man, to judge the works of God? How can you even pretend to know what his purpose is with the world in general, let alone in any specific case? It's very likely that from his perspective, things look much different.

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hobsen
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Concerning the fate of unbaptized infants, Tom Curtis, you seem to have the chronology correct. The doctrine of infant damnation came chiefly from Saint Augustine, who had a large influence from his voluminous writings and from his knowledge of Latin literature. But the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Augustine reminds us that "His strictly exegetical work is far from equalling in scientific value that of St. Jerome. His knowledge of the Biblical languages was insufficient: he read Greek with difficulty; as for Hebrew, all that we can gather from the studies of Schanz and Rottmanner is that he was familiar with Punic, a language allied to Hebrew." So his conclusions can suffer from his relative ignorance of the Bible, as he had to depend on the faulty Latin translations of his time.

Just the same his teaching on the fate of unbaptized infants had considerable authority until it was modified by Saint Thomas Aquinas, who wrote a much better summary of the synthesis of Greek and Biblical thought which characterizes Roman Catholicism. But the doctrine was revived by John Calvin during the Reformation, who passed it on to the churches descended from him, and especially to the New England Puritans in this country. Then it began to decline in the 18th century, although it remained prevalent in some churches as late as 1900, and in a very few even today.

The Wikipedia article on baptism also shows why it is often difficult to determine who is a baptized Christian. Roman Catholics introduced conditional baptism to try to avoid baptizing people twice, but that must in fact have been done to millions. And churches which reject infant baptism regularly baptize adult converts who were baptized as infants before. With the general decline in legalism today, probably few people think that does much harm in either case.

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Dagonee
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It's all there in what you quoted, Tom. Just read it:

quote:
so mild indeed that one may not say that for them non-existence would be preferable to existence in such a state (De peccat. meritis I,
Something CoF acknowledged:

quote:
the souls of those dying in actual mortal sin or in original sin alone go down at once (mox) into Hell, to be punished, however, with widely different penalties."
And, in the same link:

quote:
Finally, in regard to the teaching of the Council of Florence, it is incredible that the Fathers there assembled had any intention of defining a question so remote from the issue on which reunion with the Greeks depended, and one which was recognized at the time as being open to free discussion and continued to be so regarded by theologians for several centuries afterwards. What the council evidently intended to deny in the passage alleged was the postponement of final awards until the day of judgement. Those dying in original sin are said to descend into Hell, but this does not necessarily mean anything more than that they are excluded eternally from the vision of God. In this sense they are damned; they have failed to reach their supernatural destiny, and this viewed objectively is a true penalty. Thus the Council of Florence, however literally interpreted, does not deny the possibility of perfect subjective happiness for those dying in original sin


[ September 21, 2006, 08:24 AM: Message edited by: Dagonee ]

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Roac
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Humans love to have someone to blame or thank when things out of their control happen. And the gods are the most popular scapegoats.

Irregardless of free will or the existence of God, perhaps the axiom: 'God helps those who help themselves' would be more appropriate in this case. If we are dumb enough to put gas tanks where they are likely to explode, then why should God step in and fix it? It was our mistake; we should fix it. That "out of control tort law" in the States does have a purpose after all.

On a side note - I don't think I'd want god interfering in my life all the time. Just look at all the problems the Greeks and Romans had when the gods started taking a direct interest in their wellbeing! Higher powers are unreliable at best. [Smile]

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Colin JM0397
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JB, welcome, you're wrong... sorry, forgot the [Wink]

Where's Buddy Christ when you need him?

Funny story on that note,
I was in Italy a few years back doing a joint exercise thing with the Italian Army. Those of us from stateside were housed in an open bay with the Italian company, so we all hung out for a week or so.
We had a TV and DVD player in the day room, so movies were always on.
Some of us came in late one night from sampling the local vino and scenery and someone popped in the movie Dogma. One of the Italian guys was the only one awake, so sat down to watch. When the Buddy Christ scene came up, I swear to God... or whomever, he jumped straight out of his chair, with hands on head and screamed "MAMMA MIA!" quite loudly.
I quickly stopped that movie and threw in Braveheart to calm him down...

Well, the momma mia was funny because some stereotypes are funny when you see them in real life, but he didn't think Buddy Chirst was very funny...

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John Brown
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Richard Dey,

It appears you're side-stepping, ignoring the two critical points made in the Creed.

1) You cannot observe everything or measure everything. This means every scientific theory may exclude primary factors. The scientific community realizes this. This is why most theories predict in a probablistic, not deterministic, way. They do this because they're missing important factors in their models. And when you miss key factors you may get it very wrong.

Not all theories are probablistic. We can make deterministic predictions as well, as you pointed out. But must not think that all science is determinstic. It is not. And we trust the many probabalistic theories nevertheless because they're useful. And the better ones are useful more of the time. But we still exercise faith in them.

Example 1: How long did we make astronomical conclusions without the concepts of "dark matter" and "dark energy" which are simply fudge factors to make our equations work?

Example 2: Nobody knows what causes depression. We have many theories about chemicals and cognitions, many contradictory. But we don't know. It's too hard to measure right now.

Example 3: Human behavior science--all the soft sciences--are probablistic, not deterministic.

It does not mean we cannot come up with good predictions. That was never my point. The point was that you were claiming that knowledge was somehow different from belief. And I'm saying our "knowledge" is based on, flows from, our beliefs--science not excluded.

2) Much of our practical living is based on faith in scientific authority. Look at the numerous diets. Look at our nation's health pyramid. Global warming. Washing our hands. Taking prescriptions. Etc.

You and I do not go out and conduct tests on every single little theory to replicate results. For the bulk of them, we TRUST that the "authorities" have done so and accept it on faith.

Is this bad? Of course, not. It's useful. Faith is a marvelous thing. Let us simply recognize that we employ it all the time in non-religious settings.

Those are the points in the Creed, but which were obviously unclear.

To make it more clear we need to accept that knowledge is not the beginning point. ALL knowledge flows from the following sources of evidence:

1) Direct experience
2) Observation: anecdotal or empirical
3) Reason
4) Authority: testimony of eye-wittness, rumor, and "expert" wittness

Empirical observation is a marvelous method for discovering things. But it is not the only one and has its limitations.

Do you know how many times scientists steer their studies away from one area into another because they (a) cannot take measurements or (b) control the environment (isolate factors)? All the time! You simply cannot "know" everything by empiricism.

There are many theories about dreams, visions and their connection to hallucinations and brain stimulation. But hooking up an electrode to someone's brain and stimulating a hallucination in no way replicates the original conditions.

Empiricism cannot account for many healings, "answers" to prayer, revelations, etc. because it cannot create a controlled environment. So the best route is to be humble and say we cannot use empiricism fully there.

That doesn't mean we still can't arrive at conclusions based on the evidence. For example, we do have empirical evidence on the efficacy of prayer, that it improves recovery in double-blind tests. But what's the scientific model that supports it? There is none yet. Could it be God? Maybe. Could it be something else? Maybe.

Is it reasonable to conclude it's God? Sure, if you have enough evidence in the four groups mentioned above--personal experience, observation, authority, reason. Is it reasonable to conclude there is no "divine" factor? Sure, if you can explain it some other way with good evidences. And then we can argue about the evidence and reason.

But to posit knowledge as the opposite of belief is wrong. The truth is that our knowledge flows from belief.

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Kent
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Thanks for making a much longer (and better) post than mine, but saying similar things. John Brown, where do you hail from?

[ September 21, 2006, 12:37 PM: Message edited by: Kent ]

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Colin JM0397
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[snotty tone] "I'm from a place where we don't end our sentences with prepositions."

"Oh, sorry, where do you hail from, *&#%&$?"

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Kent
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Darn you jm0397, you mock me just because.
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MattP
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quote:
This is why most theories predict in a probablistic, not deterministic, way.
Even so, they do predict, and those that don't predict with a high-level of accuracy and precision are reformulated or discarded. Religious prophecy has a very poor track record compared to the predictions made by well-tested scientific theories.

quote:
For example, we do have empirical evidence on the efficacy of prayer, that it improves recovery in double-blind tests.
There are not many such studies and the results so far have been mixed.
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LetterRip
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Regarding prayer efficacy - presumably you are refering to 'intercessory prayer'

See this discussion on the research...

http://members.aol.com/garypos/prayerstudyafterpub.html

http://members.aol.com/garypos/Harris_study.html

It appears that the researchers have mined the data for significance after the fact, which is a rather large no-no. (Essentially if you gather a large number of statistics, by chance you will find signficance in some subset of them.) Also it looks like only the studys with poor blinding are showing signficance (poor blinding means that there is much greater to susceptibility to placebo effect influences...).

LetterRip

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John Brown
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>>Religious prophecy has a very poor track record compared to the predictions made by well-tested scientific theories.

For prophecy, it all depends on the prophet, doesn't it? That's an individual measure. Given prophecy as a whole, I don't know. I'm not familiar with any sets of data. But I'd guess they're mostly wrong. Given any single prophet, however, and I'm sure we might find some with statistically higher than average predictions.

But when I talk about metaphysical things I'm not talking just about prophecy. I believe it's much more than that. There are many "promises" or if/then propositions in religion, just as there are in the natural sciences.

For example, in more physical realms, if you stimulate a plant's growth beyond its ability to water itself, it will die (Roundup). If you run a magnet through coiled wire you'll create electricity. Etc.

In religion, you have, if you pray with x,y,z conditions, then you can receive insight or peace. If you love your neighbor in a,b,c way, you'll be happier, even if they're your enemy. If you pray with x,y.z, you can find quicker healing.

I DO know about the prayer controversy. I like the article on wikipedia myself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer#Experimental_evaluation_of_prayer

Do the mixed results of the prayer data mean there is no effect? Or do they mean that we haven't isolated the key factors? It's too early to tell via empirical tests. It needs further study. I'm going to bet it will end up like the fat studies that were mixed, but got better results when they began to isolate different kinds of fat (trans, poly, mono, saturated, unsaturated). However, I don't need to wait for empirical studies. I can test things myself. Use reason, listen to those around me, etc.

Above all--incorporate more data and consiider more theory as I come across them. I think many of us who actually believe in the doctrines of one religion or another can be tempted into thinking we have ALL of it. But I don't think history, or even scriptural history, bears that idea out.

I realize that many of these propositions are not the exclusive property of any organized religion. Nevertheless, there are some that may be counterintuitive or unpopular, but that still may yield statistically significant results.

Furthermore, much of religion attempts to answer questions about existence and what happens after death. The if/then of those propositions, facts, and concepts cannot be tested in this life directly. But there are if/thens that allow us to test the authenticity of the message and the messenger.

To complicate matters even worse, you can't just test "religion." The conditions are too varying. You have to control for specific variables. But part of the problem is coming up with what meaningful variables are--age? church attendance? sincerity (how do you measure that?)? time spent reading scripture?

Again, we can take any of the if/thens, any of the supposed metaphysical facts or concepts and discuss evidence and conclusions. But "knowledge" flows from experience, observation, reason, and authority. And all of those means require faith in one thing or the other.

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