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Does this book# deny afterlife/God? 
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Geo wrote:
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God's existence cannot be verified, but religion obviously exists. It does not follow that without one the other cannot exist. That's a false premise.


The premise of religion, is that god infact does exist. Please provide examples that this is not true, otherwise, you are incorrect in stating that this premise is false. Atheism must be an example of this premise if Interbane's words are to be considered. There is no existing god, but there may be one. The non existance of a god is central to Atheism, but god is still a presence, making Atheism a religion. There is a differance between belief and religion.

Suzanne: "If religion is based around the idea of a higher power, and that higher power can not be proven, does religion itself exist?"



Yes. Certainly. It exists despite the absence of a god throughout all of history. I don't think Geo is saying that that is not the basis of most religions. He is saying that the practices surrounding the worship of a particular god can persist weather the god actually exists as described by the religion.

you can dismiss the ideas of religion as being incorrect, but you cannot deny that they (the ideas, the dances, the books they read, the songs they sing, the buildings they erect, the people they kill, the lives they oppress, or the homeless they shelter.) exist.



Tue May 26, 2009 9:35 pm
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johnson1010 wrote:
Quote:
Geo wrote:
Quote:
God's existence cannot be verified, but religion obviously exists. It does not follow that without one the other cannot exist. That's a false premise.


The premise of religion, is that god infact does exist. Please provide examples that this is not true, otherwise, you are incorrect in stating that this premise is false. Atheism must be an example of this premise if Interbane's words are to be considered. There is no existing god, but there may be one. The non existance of a god is central to Atheism, but god is still a presence, making Atheism a religion. There is a differance between belief and religion.

Suzanne: "If religion is based around the idea of a higher power, and that higher power can not be proven, does religion itself exist?"



Yes. Certainly. It exists despite the absence of a god throughout all of history. I don't think Geo is saying that that is not the basis of most religions. He is saying that the practices surrounding the worship of a particular god can persist weather the god actually exists as described by the religion.

you can dismiss the ideas of religion as being incorrect, but you cannot deny that they (the ideas, the dances, the books they read, the songs they sing, the buildings they erect, the people they kill, the lives they oppress, or the homeless they shelter.) exist.


Johnson, you can't just say all the ideas of religion are incorrect. You can point to specific religious theories about God as being incorrect, but there are symbolic ideas in religion which may connect to an absolute reality. Granted, "the absence of a god throughout all of history" is a true call regarding impossible gods, but maybe there are other valid interpretations of the presence of god in history? For example, if God is identified with fate, and fate is present in history, then God is also present.



Wed May 27, 2009 1:22 am
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I was not saying that all the ideas or principals of religion are incorrect, i was saying that you could say particular ideas could be dismissed, but you could not say that religion does not exist, simply because you disagree with it.

This was an argument against "If god does not exist, then the culture in support of it does not exist."

Certainly many of the individual thoughts in religion are valid. Love your neighbor, don't steal, tell the truth... etc.

RT.

What does it benefit us to link fate, or causation, to the concept of god? Or love for that matter? Can't these function by themselves, independent of weighty connections to divisive fiction and still be fulfilling?



Wed May 27, 2009 12:26 pm
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johnson: "What does it benefit us to link fate, or causation, to the concept of god?"

Those are intangibles, so serve well as an anchor by which to tie god in the attempt to make him real. If you're intelligent, and believe in god, such a connection is really the only option a person has left to hang onto a belief in god. The last hope, if you will.



Wed May 27, 2009 1:39 pm
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johnson1010 wrote:
What does it benefit us to link fate, or causation, to the concept of god? Or love for that matter? Can't these function by themselves, independent of weighty connections to divisive fiction and still be fulfilling?


Hello Johnson, You are right the Bible is divisive, but it might be truer to call it faction than fiction, ie fiction based on true stories. The extent of this truth is much smaller than is imagined by the orthodox, and includes deliberate efforts to rewrite the mythology of other religions to include their gods in a subordinate capacity to Jesus. Stalin's use of massive fraud and lies for political gain, with Lenin as icon, has a strong precedent in the tawdry establishment of Christianity.

So where is the germ of truth? I think Spinoza got it right in equating God and nature, that is, seeing God as a name for the ultimate reality which determines our fate. Nature is omnipresent and omnipotent. Regarding omnibenevolence or love, we see that nature, in the context of life, evolves into steadily more complex systems in which all parts are interdependent and symbiotic. I think of love as a name for the symbiosis of natural systems, including hidden links operating at subtle unknown levels. For humanity, our planet is a symbiotic cocoon enabling our evolution, as described in the Gaia hypothesis. The natural thermostats that keep our planet liveable are, on this interpretation, manifesting the love of God for our planet, not as an intentional anthropomorphic entity, but as a description of a natural system.

Complex systems can break down in catastrophe, but this is not evidence of a lack of love in nature, only that either (a) the entities in the system evolved away from a sustainable condition, or (b) an external event such as asteroid strike or foreign invasion destroyed the ecosystem. A broken system grows steadily more complex, as in the evolution of mammals since the destruction of the dinosaurs. This idea of natural love as the tendency towards complexity also links to what scientists have postulated as the anthropic principle, the observation that our universe provides the conditions which enabled humanity to evolve.

We now have the opportunity to destroy our complex system by piling carbon into the air and blowing up atoms. Taking such action would not be evidence against a loving God, but rather that humanity has lost authentic vision of the nature of love, falling out of the complex web of love that sustains life on earth. Human fate is to some extent in human control, but understanding how our future is determined by a broader context can usefully be conceptualised in terms of a God of love and fate.

I find it helpful to use the Bible in support of a natural theology of fate and love. Clearing away the dross, the story of Jesus can be reinterpreted as a basis for dialogue about the large contemporary problems of the world, including how the dominant society lacks understanding of the nature of love, creating a blindness towards fate.



Wed May 27, 2009 4:39 pm
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RT: "So where is the germ of truth? I think Spinoza got it right in equating God and nature, that is, seeing God as a name for the ultimate reality which determines our fate."

I think anything to do with gods and magic and miracles is most definitely the wrong direction from the truth. If there were a germ of truth in the bible, it is in the value of love, and other morals that aren't dependant on magic or gods.

RT: "I think of love as a name for the symbiosis of natural systems, including hidden links operating at subtle unknown levels.

From all angles, this idea, if analyzed, is only useful for one singular purpose; to validate the idea of a god. You are working backwards, from the idea of god, to what is real. If you start with what is real, you won't need to imagine these subtle hidden links at unknown levels because, very simply, god doesn't exist.

RT: "This idea of natural love as the tendency towards complexity also links to what scientists have postulated as the anthropic principle, the observation that our universe provides the conditions which enabled humanity to evolve."

I think the tendency towards complexity isn't due to such a vague idea, but rather to the fact that there is a certain level of complexity that is ideal for replication. It's almost analytic in it's simplicity, but it explains the phenomena in it's entirety.

Many of your reasonings it seems, if lead to their ultimate conclusion, would place credit for the construction of natural laws on a god, at the beginning of the universe. Everything else not only is frowned upon by ockham's razor, but is the complete and total opposite. What is the explanatory breadth of a hidden connectedness in nature? You could claim that it's useful at some level, but where? Everything already has an explanation, and those that don't are foiled by known unknowns, if that makes sense.

The only explanatory breadth of hidden connectedness or god as love or an overarching unity... is to claim there is a god. There is no other reason to make these hypotheses! They don't explain why we've evolved or why we love, or help with decrypting the meaning of sacred texts, nor do they provide a useful framework for the explanation of any natural phenomenon.

RT: "Clearing away the dross, the story of Jesus can be reinterpreted as a basis for dialogue about the large contemporary problems of the world, including how the dominant society lacks understanding of the nature of love, creating a blindness towards fate."

There are far more useful and relevant frameworks for understanding these problems.



Wed May 27, 2009 8:00 pm
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Interbane
There are far more useful and relevant frameworks for understanding these problems.


Yes… and they do not need to be “reinterpreted” to make sense of them.

Later


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Wed May 27, 2009 9:09 pm
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I second that Interbane.



Wed May 27, 2009 9:47 pm
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Interbane wrote:
RT: "So where is the germ of truth? I think Spinoza got it right in equating God and nature, that is, seeing God as a name for the ultimate reality which determines our fate." I think anything to do with gods and magic and miracles is most definitely the wrong direction from the truth. If there were a germ of truth in the bible, it is in the value of love, and other morals that aren't dependent on magic or gods.
In practical terms, our God is what we value most highly. So, your saying the germ of truth in the Bible is the value of love, is another way of saying that love is the God of the Bible, and that other seeming Gods in the book are false. This also aligns with many comments from Jesus. We should decouple the discussion of Gods from the interpretation via magic and miracles, which have been shown to be scientifically impossible.
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RT: "I think of love as a name for the symbiosis of natural systems, including hidden links operating at subtle unknown levels.From all angles, this idea, if analyzed, is only useful for one singular purpose; to validate the idea of a god. You are working backwards, from the idea of god, to what is real. If you start with what is real, you won't need to imagine these subtle hidden links at unknown levels because, very simply, god doesn't exist.
Of course there are subtle hidden links at unknown levels. The world climate is interconnected and has many systemic links which science has not yet understood. The interesting thing for the earth is that ecosystems seem to have internal balancing thermostats, retaining their stability in ways that we do not understand. This symbiosis is entirely natural, but hidden and complex.
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RT: "This idea of natural love as the tendency towards complexity also links to what scientists have postulated as the anthropic principle, the observation that our universe provides the conditions which enabled humanity to evolve."I think the tendency towards complexity isn't due to such a vague idea, but rather to the fact that there is a certain level of complexity that is ideal for replication. It's almost analytic in it's simplicity, but it explains the phenomena in it's entirety.
That is a big call. You are saying that when a system gets too complex it becomes less able to replicate. There is no evidence for this. Intuitively, the more complex a natural system becomes, the greater its internal robustness, but also the greater its susceptibility to new external shocks. The anthropic principle is not vague, but rather an analytic description of necessary conditions for the emergence of humanity. Analytically, the universe must be such as to enable human life.

The more difficult synthetic logical argument is that love, understood as hidden linkages, is essential for human life, and is somehow built in to the emergence of complexity. Calling this phenomenon God, as per the epistle of John, is a useful way to interpret our complex context.
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Many of your reasonings it seems, if lead to their ultimate conclusion, would place credit for the construction of natural laws on a god, at the beginning of the universe. Everything else not only is frowned upon by ockham's razor, but is the complete and total opposite.
No, I don't think of God as an intentional cosmic creator, except in the sense that natural law provides the structure of reality. Language about God makes more sense as a way of explaining human identity and potential. Good goals need to be aligned with natural law, and can helpfully be codified by the idea that they are from God, representing a shared vision.
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What is the explanatory breadth of a hidden connectedness in nature? You could claim that it's useful at some level, but where? Everything already has an explanation, and those that don't are foiled by known unknowns, if that makes sense.
The Biblical term Logos (Reason, Word) can be understood as hidden connectedness. Science is continually seeking new regularities in nature, hidden to previous view. Your Rumsfeldism (:)) ignores the unknown unknowns, the hidden connections in nature which may be determinant for fate. Saying that 'everything already has an explanation' with no recourse to unknown unknowns is a great way to tempt fate. A better approach is to say, yes there are unknown connections, because we don't understand everything, and we should retain an open mind about the nature of the unknown. It could be that ideas from religion have insight into things that are unknown by science.
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The only explanatory breadth of hidden connectedness or god as love or an overarching unity... is to claim there is a god. There is no other reason to make these hypotheses! They don't explain why we've evolved or why we love, or help with decrypting the meaning of sacred texts, nor do they provide a useful framework for the explanation of any natural phenomenon.
Of course there is an overarching unity in reality. Invoking it is not a way to claim another entity, but to argue there is a real sense in which all reality is moving in a single direction, just as our planet is spinning around the sun. if there is a sense in which the complex unity of our planet is in some way loving, that is, forgiving towards erring entities within it, this provides a naturalistic way to interpret John's identification of God as love.
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RT: "Clearing away the dross, the story of Jesus can be reinterpreted as a basis for dialogue about the large contemporary problems of the world, including how the dominant society lacks understanding of the nature of love, creating a blindness towards fate." There are far more useful and relevant frameworks for understanding these problems.
I'm not surprised you think that Interbane, given the toxic condition of Christianity in the USA. Jesus symbolises the little guy with an important message who is ignored at first, but eventually vindicated.



Wed May 27, 2009 10:44 pm
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RT
In practical terms, our God is what we value most highly.


In practical terms the things we value most highly are values… not god. You are again placing god in a context where he/she/it is not needed.

None of us accept this definition of god, so the rest of the statement is automatically flawed…

Quote:
RT
So, you’re saying the germ of truth in the Bible is the value of love, is another way of saying that love is the God of the Bible, and that other seeming Gods in the book are false.


No one is saying this except you.

We have all told you that the love interpretation is just that… one interpretation among many…

If I were to ignore specific negative behavior and focus on other positive behavior of someone like Hitler I could make him look like a national hero and great humanitarian. This is of course a lie… the same lie you perpetrate when you ignore the negative lessons of the bible and of Jesus… you make them look better than they are… and that is not the reality of the text or the character.

It is not just the church that is guilty of poisoning the message… it is the text itself.

As you said before, it is what you want to find and what is most helpful for our race that makes the love message appear to you... I suspect that you are half right.

It is your desire that allows you to see that gem of material and hold it as worthy above the rest. The problem is that the reasoning you use for searching out that particular message (and you do have to search as well as reinterpret) is not giving the other material its honest value. Nor does it stop the other harmful (and more literal) messages from speaking to countless other people.

When giving fair value to all of the text and all of the possible messages the love idea is lost in the fray. And Jesus becomes a bully and a jerk!

If that is the text that you recommend we build our society from that is your business, but I see nothing worthwhile there that has not been said before and better.

Later


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Wed May 27, 2009 11:25 pm
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Sorry for persisting with this debate, but I still think there is scope for clarification. We are looking at two rival interpretations of the Bible.

1. God is love - compatible with science and ethics, and argued by the main characters (Jesus, John) as the core message of the New Testament, even if they do not always live up to their ideals.

2. God is an entity - incompatible with science and ethics, hallowed mainly by superstitious tradition and clerical hierarchy, derived by folk reification of metaphorical myths, useful for corrupt manipulation of popular opinion.

My sense is that atheists are discomfited by the possibility of interpretation one, because it undercuts their observation that the church is corrupt, and because it provides a path to salvage religious faith. Atheists have a vision of a world without spirituality, regardless of the widespread view that spirituality is central to human life. For this reason they are only able to debate against interpretation two - as seen for example in Richard Dawkins comment to the effect that Bishop Jack Spong is not a real Christian because he rejects theism.

I am not recommending that we take the Bible at face value, but rather that we assess it critically within the range of mythic sources which inform human culture. Of course, the Bible has enormous faults in ethics and honesty, but to the question whether there could be a saving grace, I say yes.



Last edited by Robert Tulip on Thu May 28, 2009 5:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu May 28, 2009 5:08 am
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I enjoy debates with you RT for the simple fact that your position is unlike other defenders of religion. However, I do find your arguments faulty in many ways.

Quote:
“In practical terms, our God is what we value most highly. So, your saying the germ of truth in the Bible is the value of love, is another way of saying that love is the God of the Bible”


This is your definition, not the one commonly accepted. As I say, your positions are unique in my experience, and not the most widely found interpretation. I reject that what I value most highly is a god. Love is simply love. An emotional response wholly restricted to life, which does not bound other naturally occurring phenomenon like the atmosphere, which it seems you have tried to infer is also subject to love.

Love is not a force of nature, it is a side effect of it. A chemical reaction in the brains of organisms to form attachments that benefit the organism.


Quote:
“We should decouple the discussion of Gods from the interpretation via magic and miracles, which have been shown to be scientifically impossible.”


God is a mystical, magical word. It’s whole basis for existence is the description of a supernatural entity whose realm is that of magic and irrationality. That is what God is! So, to couple this term with easily studied natural phenomenon like love is completely unnecessary.

Divesting God of its supernatural elements is to gut it of all its meaning. Once you do that it is just a pronoun. I took the god to work today. Can I have some god on my pizza?

If I can just re-define a word to mean, alternately, car or cheese, or love, then it is just a place holder word and meaningless except in context. It is far better for me to say car when I talk about a mechanized wagon for human transport. It is far better to simply say love when you are talking about an emotional response that triggers feelings of closeness and concern for another’s well being.

If you do not believe in the god of monotheistic faith then scrap that word! Use one that better defines your position. God is inextricably tied to an omniscient sky-daddy who either casts bolts of lightning, burns bushes, or has the head of a raven.



Quote:
‘Of course there are subtle hidden links at unknown levels. The world climate is interconnected and has many systemic links which science has not yet understood.

…love, understood as hidden linkages, is essential for human life, and is somehow built in to the emergence of complexity.”


So then Love, as you have defined as god, is therefore intimately involved with the subtle hidden links at unknown levels throughout our reality. I call shenanigans on this sentiment.

Feel-goodery is not responsible in any way for the climate or the natural mechanisms of the universe. It is a product of them.

Quote:
“Good goals need to be aligned with natural law, and can helpfully be codified by the idea that they are from God, representing a shared vision.”


Only in so far that people have this nonsensical representation of a sky-daddy already imbedded in their minds. It may be impossible for me to change my mother’s mind on the true nature of goodness, that it cannot be found floating among the clouds, and we need to do the hard work ourselves. She may want god to help her define these boundaries, but it will not be a part of my child’s world view, nor has it been mine for years, and we will not suffer for lack of it.

Quote:
“My sense is that atheists are discomfited by the possibility of interpretation one, because it undercuts their observation that the church is corrupt, and because it provides a path to salvage religious faith. Atheists have a vision of a world without spirituality, regardless of the widespread view that spiritualuality is central to human life. For this reason they are only able to debate against interpretation two - as seen for example in Richard Dawkins comment to the effect that Bishop Jack Spong is not a real Christian because he rejects theism. “


Interpretation 1 continues to invent supernatural layers to add on top of the already daunting task of understanding the natural world and stirs in confusion where we need clarity. It exists, as Interbane said, solely to salvage religious faith and does not contribute to our understanding of the universe.

Love can be better understood as love, rather than as the manifestation of a, from your position, non-existent god which is really just a synonym for love in the first place. If it is just a synonym, lets not use it. It has many connotations not found in other synonyms such as affection. If it is a means to an end, such as keeping the use of god on life support, then it is a very useful practice, and not fully on the level.

Quote:
“I am not recommending that we take the Bible at face value, but rather that we assess it critically within the range of mythic sources which inform human culture. Of course, the Bible has enormous faults in ethics and honesty, but to the question whether there could be a saving grace, I say yes.”


I agree whole-heartedly. Let us assess it on its merits. It is a piece of literature. Discussion of god in every day terms has a place, just as you might say “That guy’s Moby Dick is the Iditarod.” But that does not mean we should use Moby Dick to describe every instance of obsession. Promoting this term underlines a wish for it to be heard, and a desire for it to be relevant. These are not objective aims.



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RT
My sense is that atheists are discomfited by the possibility of interpretation one, because it undercuts their observation that the church is corrupt, and because it provides a path to salvage religious faith.


Actually it is not discomforting at all, but totally unnecessary, adding a layer of mysticism to an already well defined term. It adds nothing to the definition of love and is wholly self serving to the term god.

Quote:
RT
Atheists have a vision of a world without spirituality, regardless of the widespread view that spirituality is central to human life.


And the widespread view several hundred years ago was that the world was flat…

those of us without religion statistically get along better than those with it.

It is entirely possible that that “widespread view” is false.

Look at the average person who calls themselves a Christian… they never go to church, they do not prey, they are only “spiritual” in the sense that they believe in god… because they accepted a claim made to them in their childhood.

This concept once planted waits to be used by people with specific motives (such as priests and politicians) but is nearly never relied upon by the believer them self, this “spirituality” is no more needed or used than a flat spare tire.

Of course stripping away religion from people who already have it would cause great unrest and mental anguish, to those who are truly religious and not ready to shed the burden…

But look to those of us who have never had it in the first place… we are independent, strong willed, successful, educated, helpful, tolerant, honest, resourceful, and we have many friends and love for them and for life.

Does this seem so bad?

Later


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Last edited by Frank 013 on Thu May 28, 2009 8:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu May 28, 2009 10:55 am
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1. God is love - compatible with science and ethics, and argued by the main characters (Jesus, John) as the core message of the New Testament, even if they do not always live up to their ideals.

2. Love has evolved due to it's survival benefits.

That the ancients didn't understand evolution doesn't mean we should carry their mystic views of love forward into the modern age. The existence of love is so easily explained in an evolutionary framework that your #1 is laughably false to me.

RT: "In practical terms, our God is what we value most highly."

No, that's what you value most highly perhaps. The things I value most highly I reference them properly. If I value love most highly, I value love most highly. There's no god involved, I have no need of that hypothesis.

RT: "Of course there are subtle hidden links at unknown levels. The world climate is interconnected and has many systemic links which science has not yet understood."

Such as the workings of gravity? That is a known unknown? Or the methods by which the frequency of dimensional vibrations in string theory affect their physical characteristics? Or perhaps the interaction of molecules as they manifest in weather patterns? The current hypotheses may be inaccurate at this time, but to include something so prominent as an additional force(which is most likely how a god would manifest), is a massive step in the opposite direction of understanding.

RT: "The interesting thing for the earth is that ecosystems seem to have internal balancing thermostats, retaining their stability in ways that we do not understand."

Chaos and complexity theory are making progress in these areas by leaps and bounds. That we don't understand much of it is the playground for people's imagination. That's where gods and magic dwell, until we eventually come to understand.

RT: "You are saying that when a system gets too complex it becomes less able to replicate. There is no evidence for this."

A complex system necessarily lacks redundancy. Due to the laws of nature, organisms have limits in their evolution. Symmetry, mass, chemical usage. That we have no evidence is due to where we are in time. We could sit around and wait for a few millennia, and watch the complexity of life on earth as it evolves. But then, the limitation here is that we are as complex as is evolutionarily stable. I personally doubt this, since there is much room for improvement.

The point is that complexity, limited or not, is pursued due to it's evolutionary stability, and nothing more. Unless what you're saying is that evolutionary stability is a goal of some hidden god and not a byproduct of the laws of nature?

I'm sorry Robert, but everything you propose that has to do with a god is an unneccessary addition to human knowledge. It's like adding an A to the beginning of every word. You do it because you like the letter A, not because it is part of the world(word).



Thu May 28, 2009 1:44 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Atheists have a vision of a world without spirituality, regardless of the widespread view that spirituality is central to human life. For this reason they are only able to debate against interpretation two - as seen for example in Richard Dawkins comment to the effect that Bishop Jack Spong is not a real Christian because he rejects theism.

We need to define spirituality just as we need to define God if we use the word. I'm curious what your idea of the word is. I've heard it stated that such common traits as honesty, compassion, acting on principle, and doing to others as you would be done by are the important spiritual traits, and I have difficultly disagreeing with this. What we call religious or perhaps metaphysical beliefs might not be important to spirituality as so defined. Or they might be, I'm really not sure. Also, there is probably a little more to spirituality than I've indicated. Just trying to get a discussion going regarding your statement that spirituality is central to human life.


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Sat May 30, 2009 1:13 pm
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