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To question religion 
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Post Re: To question religion
KarelVanCanegem wrote:
I believe in God. It is natural to believe in a higher being.


My Bible Study group watched a video last night of an interview with John Dominic Crossan who made a comment about belief that made me think.

He asked, what would it have meant if someone in the ancient world had said "I believe in the Roman Empire"?

Crossan said it would not have meant that they literally believed the Roman Empire was a political entity that stretched from Spain to Palestine. Rather, this statement is a statement of value, not a statement of fact. It means that the person has 'got with the program' of the Roman Empire and believes it is the best thing for the world.

We see this today with political candidates making the statement 'I believe in America'. Again, it is a statement of commitment, of faith, and not a statement of fact. They are saying that America embodies good values, and encouraging others to 'get with the program' of patriotism.

What does this mean about God and Jesus?

It shows that the statement Karel made in the opening post, "I believe in God", is not necessarily a statement about a matter of fact, but rather a statement of what Karel considers his highest value. It is an assertion that belief in God is a good thing, with transformative capacity for cultural identity.

It makes me wonder, how deep does the confusion go within the meaning of belief?

Are believers primarily expressing a sense of commitment or a factual claim? With Karel's second statement, about belief in a higher being, it literally reads as a statement of fact. And yet, if we think of this 'higher being' as just an imaginary vision that unites people, then this religious statement can be entirely compatible with a scientific atheism. We can believe in God in the sense that it is a good thing for people to cooperate on ethical ideals. We can even believe in Jesus in the sense that Jesus is a dream of the ideal person, just as for some people 'America' is a dream of an ideal country.


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Post Re: To question religion
Robert Tulip wrote:

He asked, what would it have meant if someone in the ancient world had said "I believe in the Roman Empire"?

Crossan said it would not have meant that they literally believed the Roman Empire was a political entity that stretched from Spain to Palestine. Rather, this statement is a statement of value, not a statement of fact. It means that the person has 'got with the program' of the Roman Empire and believes it is the best thing for the world.

The statement "I believe in God" carries both the sense of belief in God's reality and belief in God's agenda. There doesn't seem to be the same option that a physical entity like Roman Empire gives you, to take it literally or more metaphorically.

Quote:
We see this today with political candidates making the statement 'I believe in America'. Again, it is a statement of commitment, of faith, and not a statement of fact. They are saying that America embodies good values, and encouraging others to 'get with the program' of patriotism.

"America is the greatest country in the world" is a deeply held fact to many, and this underlies the belief statement.

Quote:
What does this mean about God and Jesus?

It shows that the statement Karel made in the opening post, "I believe in God", is not necessarily a statement about a matter of fact, but rather a statement of what Karel considers his highest value. It is an assertion that belief in God is a good thing, with transformative capacity for cultural identity.

I think it's Daniel Dennett who talks about "belief in belief" as a justification for religion that is not dependent on the literal truth of propositions. It's good for people, whether it's true or not, is the idea.

Quote:
It makes me wonder, how deep does the confusion go within the meaning of belief?

Are believers primarily expressing a sense of commitment or a factual claim? With Karel's second statement, about belief in a higher being, it literally reads as a statement of fact. And yet, if we think of this 'higher being' as just an imaginary vision that unites people, then this religious statement can be entirely compatible with a scientific atheism. We can believe in God in the sense that it is a good thing for people to cooperate on ethical ideals. We can even believe in Jesus in the sense that Jesus is a dream of the ideal person, just as for some people 'America' is a dream of an ideal country.

Stephen Prothero said that atheists are obsessed with this matter of beliefs, meaning that in their eyes religion is about nothing else. Prothero reminds us that there is much more to it than that. The confusion is that belief isn't the only important thing in the first place. I don't, however, think it's possible for many people to self-consciously declare that their belief in God is imaginary and yet continue to "worship" or even be inspired by such a thing.


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Last edited by DWill on Wed Feb 08, 2012 7:17 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: To question religion
DWill wrote:
I don't, however, think it's possible for many people to self-consciously declare that their belief in God is imaginary and yet continue to "worship" or even be inspired by such a thing.


This is precisely the problem of idolatry, condemned in the commandment not to worship graven images. Paul extended this in Romans 1 with the injunction to worship the creator and not creatures.

People continually want to take an unknown reality, such as the cosmic creative process, and explain it by analogy through abstract concepts and symbols. The Judeo-Christian tradition, and the whole Indo-European language family, uses the analogy of a man in the sky as father figure in whose image humanity is made. This imaginative analogy has over time hardened into an idol, a concept whereby people assert that something unknown is in fact known to them. This idolatry of describing attributes of God as an entity turns the creator into a creature of our own imagination. Imagination is precisely the process of engraving ideas into images.

The same thing applies with Jesus Christ. If the early church thought that the story of Jesus was an 'as if' imaginary tale of what might happen if the power of universal creation was manifest on our planet, we can envisage that the imaginative process of idolatry set in rapidly. People found they could not, as DWill put it, self-consciously worship a fiction, so they had to imagine the fiction was true. This led to the whole elaboration of the myth of Jesus in the Gospels as a graven image, breaking the second commandment not to 'make a likeness of anything in the heaven above'.

This same principle of belief also applies in non religious contexts, such as nationalism and other ideologies. Even with science, we find that people express belief in a scientific world view based on evidence, observation and reason. As soon as we say this worldview is better than others, we are on the terrain of faith, the contest for people's sense of identity and commitment. The debate over atheism is a clash of rival faiths, faith in science versus faith in God. Part of the scientific faith consists in the assertion that it is not a faith, even while it displays faith characteristics by seeking social mobilization around creedal statements in order to generate political influence.


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Post Re: To question religion
Robert Tulip wrote:
People continually want to take an unknown reality, such as the cosmic creative process, and explain it by analogy through abstract concepts and symbols. The Judeo-Christian tradition, and the whole Indo-European language family, uses the analogy of a man in the sky as father figure in whose image humanity is made. This imaginative analogy has over time hardened into an idol, a concept whereby people assert that something unknown is in fact known to them. This idolatry of describing attributes of God as an entity turns the creator into a creature of our own imagination. Imagination is precisely the process of engraving ideas into images.

The sticking point here is that you need some Golden Age when this idolatry wasn't the way of the world, when people had more enlightened thinking. Is there evidence that this was ever the case? I believe that with Daoism, to use that example, the religion began as a simple philosophy and over time the gods and other extravagances poured in. But that doesn't necessarily provide an example of people at first understanding myths figuratively and then for some reason coming over time to believe they're concrete. There probably was little mythic representation in early Daoism; when the myths arrived they might have been co-incident with the belief in the gods, and I suspect that was likely the case with other myth as well. It seems more likely that the figurative understandings of most myths is recent rather than ancient, and that you might be reading modern thinking back into history.
Quote:
The same thing applies with Jesus Christ. If the early church thought that the story of Jesus was an 'as if' imaginary tale of what might happen if the power of universal creation was manifest on our planet, we can envisage that the imaginative process of idolatry set in rapidly. People found they could not, as DWill put it, self-consciously worship a fiction, so they had to imagine the fiction was true. This led to the whole elaboration of the myth of Jesus in the Gospels as a graven image, breaking the second commandment not to 'make a likeness of anything in the heaven above'.

To many of us, the Jesus story could only make sense if it is not literal, but that doesn't mean that the early church must have intended it that way. These were people totally uninfluenced by the spirit of science, exceptional figures such as Philo notwithstanding.
Quote:
This same principle of belief also applies in non religious contexts, such as nationalism and other ideologies. Even with science, we find that people express belief in a scientific world view based on evidence, observation and reason. As soon as we say this worldview is better than others, we are on the terrain of faith, the contest for people's sense of identity and commitment. The debate over atheism is a clash of rival faiths, faith in science versus faith in God. Part of the scientific faith consists in the assertion that it is not a faith, even while it displays faith characteristics by seeking social mobilization around creedal statements in order to generate political influence.

It's very rare for people to reject the scientific world-view, because doing so would mean not participating in or benefiting from science. Almost no one is prepared to do that; almost everyone wants to have what science has wrought--technology to make life easier, medicine to make us healthier, etc. What we see is a cultural divide that on one side clings to conservative morals, which have traditionally been seen as having divine origin, and on the other ventures away from some of these morals while placing morality under human aegis.

In a secular, democratic society, it's not inevitable that differences in religion have to assume the proportion of a clash between great forces. These differences are actually pretty well tamped down in the U.S. when we look at the big picture. A clash existing has more credibility when we look at Islam vs. the West. We don't know yet how that will turn out.


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Last edited by DWill on Wed Feb 08, 2012 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: To question religion
tat tvam asi wrote:
You do realize that the character of Jesus in the NT is designed to be a mediator between God and humanity don't you?


You say it very clearly: the character of Jesus in the NT is DESIGNED... As you can read in my first post, I do question the value of the bible.
So in my view Christ is not a middle man nor should he be only seen as a mediator between God and humanity. He is the Son of God and we made him into something which has caused a lot of suffering.


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Post Re: To question religion
Quote:
I do question the value of the bible.
So in my view Christ is not a middle man nor should he be only seen as a mediator between God and humanity. He is the Son of God and we made him into something which has caused a lot of suffering.

So then for you Jesus represents something beyond the confines of instutional religions and even the Bible itself?

True enough. I can't say that I disagree.

Now of course I do question everything even to extent of questioning whether the Jesus tale is completely symbolic and not even a fact of real early 1st century history. A lot of mythological and mystery type teachings are set up that way ( not even really historical), so why couldn't this be the very same? It's difficult to say for sure...

But either way, I see this whole thing as people trying to grasp at the great unknown. The only way to do that is by symbolic analogy, metaphor, etc. You have to try and draw from the symbolism of things that are known to the mind (the earth, the sky, animals, people) in order to try and pitch it past to the actual mystery of the Great Unknown which is the meat of the matter.

And the churches are mistaking the symbolism of things that are known as if they are the final reference - as if the great unknown is literally in the form of man, or as if it's literally a mind, or as if it's anything at all that can be named or described in a literal sense. You actually have to let go of all of those things in order catch the point underlying it all.

The theists that I know who have taken their mythology to the mystery function level have a very different concept of God than most people do. You could toss the bible in the trash as the work of errant man grasping to try and understand God and it wouldn't phase them in the least. The religious institutions are rendered irrelevant in some cases, as is the very concept of a middle man anything at all. If the organization is not acting as transparent to the transcendent (the mystery underlying the metaphor) then the organization is simply blocking the way. And in a lot of ways I'd say that's true, a lot of these organizations are blocking off the deeper function of the mythological symbolism. At least that's the way some of the theists see it @ the Joseph Campbell foundation....


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Post Re: To question religion
Tat, your question is indeed how I see Jesus and God. For me not one religion is able to comprehend their complete and true meaning, and we certainly don't need any institutions telling us how we need to look at them.

According to me there is a higher being, a powerful force we can call God, but personally I don't feel the need to fully understand God. I do believe that Jesus was his first Son on Earth, but just like we have done with God, we have created an image of them so that through the ages and certainly these days, the one institution claiming to be its representative (the church), has become totally corrupt.


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Post Re: To question religion
Robert just posted something similar here:

http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/vie ... =26&t=4025

People have more or less made an idol out of Jesus and the Bible.


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Post Re: To question religion
Ok so.... for a long time, i didn't know where i fit in with religion, i figured it would come to me in time ... and on my own, I tried christianity, and didn't really like the rules or policies they had or have......so one day i decided to research as many religions as i could... so i went to the bookstore, and took a bunch of books on different religions and did research online also.... nothing stirred in me at first, but then when i started reading about the history of buddhism, I got hooked on it immediately. A lot of what was written in the book, were the same things i believed in...... That's where the difference lies between christianity & buddhism.... Christians have to be in a higher power to make themselves feel better and read the bible all the time.... Buddhists Believe in themselves, in their own self worth, they depend on themselves, and not in a higher power............well that's how I feel...... thanx for listening ..... and Blessed be



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Post Re: To question religion
lately i've been thinking how the concept of god as external doesn't work

i mean as soon as you think of god as "over there" watching you, well it makes him evil, for example, why doesnt he stop the babies dying in pain, why doesnt he intervene in the horrible exploitation of humans by other humans etc etc etc

the whole concept of god as "outside" wanting to come in is dubious

but if instead the concept is "inside" wanting to transform out it makes more sense

if god is internal, hiding behind your eyes so to speak

trying to find god would be like trying to find your glasses when you are wearing them, or trying to find your glasses when they are wearing you even.

like that saying if god forgot who he was he would be man, or if man failed to realise his unity with transcendant mystery he would think his brain was all there was to it.

if god is conceptualised as "the mystery behind all things" and that we ourselves are a part of and one with then we might be happier and get a little further.

my point is that "external" god is an unworkable concept and an "internal" god makes a little more sense (just a little)

to clarify, someone said to me long ago "i am god, i've always been god and i always will be god" ...well i thought they meant they were yahweh and that they personally had created the universe, but i see now that all they were saying was "i am one with the transcendant mystery" or "tat tvam asi" or "i and the father are one"

people are so slow to wake up to the transcendant that is immanent within them and indeed is them.

some people think "oh how egotistical to say i am god" but really isn't it even more egotistical to deny your unity with all and say "i am separate and divorced from all" you just end up alienated from even your very self.

when i look at the universe i see myself in the sense that i too am part of all that.

all in one and one in all just like a tesseract.

for ages i was looking for god and frustrated that he was so hard to find, but if i was god and i wanted a good hiding spot where would be the last place they would think of looking? :lol:

again, people think "oh how egotistical to say i am god" but really isn't it even more egotistical to deny your unity with all and say "i am separate and divorced from all" you just end up alienated from even your very self.



Last edited by youkrst on Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:04 am, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: To question religion


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A) The Origins of Religious Worship

B) The Christmas Nativity

C) The Mythicist Position

D) YEC theory put to rest!


Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:13 pm
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